Seshasayee, Parekh, Munjal fail Smriti Irani’s ‘test’ for IIM-A head

Chetna Mehra Navadha Pandey New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 31, 2016

Smriti Irani, HRD Minister


The reported rejection by the Smriti Irani-headed Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry of three corporate stalwarts shortlisted by a panel for Chairperson for IIM-Ahmedabad is being seen by experts as a threat to the autonomy of India's premier business school.

“By rejecting the IIM-A's recommendations the government might be trying to control the B-school's functioning at the macro level,” said a well-known educationist, who is also an IIM-A alumnus, on the condition of anonymity, adding that “MHRD may want to put its own people at the helm of affairs by directing the move.”

According to news reports, a three-member search committee, headed by former IIM-A Chairman and L&T CMD A. M. Naik, had suggested three names for the top post — Chairman of the Board of Directors of Infosys R. Seshasayee, Chairman of HDFC Deepak Parekh, and Hero MotoCorp CMD Pawan Munjal.

“No reason was stated in the file on why the three names were rejected,” a source in the Ministry told BusinessLine. “A new search panel will be constituted by the IIM-A board for nominating more names now. There is no set deadline for the same, however,” the source added.

Another source said the decision on this had come from top-most level in the Ministry.

While most government officials, and previous IIM-A Directors, refused to comment on the issue, top educationists, on the condition of anonymity, expressed their concern that the move might be aimed at bringing a chairperson aligned with the existing government's policy. This, they fear, may jeopardise the autonomy of the B-school.

"It has always been important to get the consent of faculty, and its other stakeholders while selecting the Chairperson at IIM-A, and to maintain the quality and benchmarks that the B-School has set over the years autonomy is of foremost importance," an expert said.

While most experts are questioning MHRD's decision, some are ready to give the government the benefit of doubt. “While IIM-A has the flexibility to suggest the names, it is up to MHRD to select or reject those names,” said Kamal Singh, Director General, National Human Resource Development Network. “At the same time, the move won't affect the IIM's autonomy as the new recommendation for the post are also to be carried out by IIM-A only.”

All the three names suggested by IIM-A were inspiring, and the government should have at least considered one of the names, Singh added.

This is the second controversy in a week’s time for the B-school after e-commerce giant Flipkart deferred its placement offers rolled out at the institution.

The position of IIM-A Chairman is lying vacant since January after A. M. Naik stepped down. Pankaj Patel, the CMD of Cadila Healthcare is currently the Interim Chairman, who was appointed by the IIM-A's governing board.

E-mails sent to Smriti Irani’s office and the Department of Higher Education remained unanswered at the time of going to print.

Published on May 31, 2016
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