A row erupted Sunday over the resignation of the Director of IIT-Delhi, Raghunath K Shevgaonkar, with the Ministry of Human Resource Development issuing a statement to clarify it had not brought pressure or given him any direction to release salary dues of Subramanian Swamy, former IIT-Delhi faculty who is now a BJP functionary.
Shevgaonkar declined to explain his decision, telling reporters “I have resigned, that’s it”.
The ministry, while rejecting reports that Shevgaonkar resigned because there was pressure on him to release salary dues of nearly Rs 70 lakh to Swamy for the period 1972 to 1991, said it did not forward any such request to IIT-Delhi.
“MHRD has neither forwarded Mr Swamy’s request to IIT-Delhi nor given any direction to make payment of arrears to Mr Swamy. Views of DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) and Finance Ministry have been sought on the matter,” the ministry said in its statement.
Shevgaonkar sent his resignation in a letter to Chairman of IIT Board of Governors Vijay P Bhatkar on Friday evening in which he cited “personal reasons”.
“Chairman, IIT-Delhi has forwarded Director’s resignation letter on 26th December evening for Appointing Authority’s decision following due process. Resignation can only be accepted by the Appointing Authority. It will have to go to the President for his approval as the Visitor of IIT-Delhi,” the statement added.
Bhatkar told PTI that “Shevgaonkar has cited personal reasons for resigning. He told me that he has been away from his family in Mumbai for more than three years and wanted to return to IIT Bombay to be with them. I tried to convince him that he need not go in for resignation, but he said he has personal reasons to do that.”
Although the ministry statement did not mention it, HRD officials claimed that Shevgaonkar resigned after an explanation was sought from him on the memorandum of understanding between the Mauritius Research Council and IIT-Delhi for setting up an International Institute of Technology Research Academy in Mauritius.
The officials claimed that the campus in Mauritius “violated the IIT Act”. The MoU was signed in 2013 under the then HRD minister M M Pallam Raju.
According to officials, the venture should have been limited to research but that was not the case and, therefore, an explanation was sought from Shevgaonkar. The ministry also took cognizance of an interview he gave to the Mauritius media which it claims indicated IIT-Delhi was “running a campus” there.
When his comments were sought Sunday, Pallam Raju said “institutions have the autonomy to get into agreements with what they see commensurate”.
“Shevgaonkar was a fine director and academician. He did a lot of good service to IIT Delhi… Institutes have the autonomy to seek research partnership where they deem fit,” Pallam Raju told The Indian Express. He refused comment on the MoU saying the “agreement was for research”.
Ministry officials claimed even if Swamy’s request had been forwarded to IIT-Delhi, a decision would have to be taken by the entire Board of Governors and not the Director alone. IIT-Delhi says Swamy has not provided it with information on his earnings from the time of his termination as a professor in 1972 to March 1991, when he was reinstated following a court order.
Meanwhile, former Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, a former IITian, said it was “very sad” that Shevgaonkar had to resign and questioned if the autonomy of IITs was being challenged.