IIT Guwahati whistleblower suspended; students take to the streets to protest

Professor Brijesh Rai has been suspended for revealing acts of corruption and nepotism by the IIT Guwahati administration.

ByChahak Gupta
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IIT Guwahati whistleblower suspended; students take to the streets to protest
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Brijesh Rai, assistant professor at Indian Institue of Technology (IIT) Guwahati’s Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, has been suspended. He fears he may soon lose his job. Rai has filed more than 300 Right To Information pleas and has constantly pointed at various discrepancies and instances of corruption and “nepotism” on campus. 

In 2016, Rai noticed the first oddity when an M.Tech student was awarded his degree without following due procedure. The said student neither attended classes nor did he submit his project on time. Rai filed an RTI on the matter but didn’t get a satisfactory response. 

Professor Rai has also raised his voice in the past against the undemocratic and illegal appointments for various positions in the faculty. He was suspended in 2017 for a period of nine months for calling out another alleged corruption scam. He has also written to the Ministry of Human Resource Development on various occasions, familiarising them with these incidents of alleged corruption and illegal appointments in the college. 

Speaking to Campus Politik, Rai says: “There were 25 vacancies in the college. Only one out of 25 people didn’t accept the offer and therefore, a candidate from the waiting list was called. However, when more vacancies were created, a fresh advertisement was not issued. Instead, over 60 people were recruited from the same waitlist.”

Rai adds, “In many cases, candidates were hired just because they had contacts with the administration. According to rules, an assistant professor cannot be promoted as a regular one. One has to apply for a permanent position again. However, the administration promoted many assistant professors as associates without following due procedure.”

In the past, he had filed a Public Interest Litigation to challenge the recruitment of 15 people at IIIT Bhagalpur. He also raised his voice against the construction of a private school inside the college campus. Rai alleges that the school was constructed using dubious means. 

Currently, Rai is under suspension for bringing to light a recent case of alleged corruption by the administration. In 2017, the Indian Scientific Research Organisation came out with a project in collaboration with IIT Guwahati. The advertisement for the vacancy in this project was reposted with lowered qualifications by the college administration. Rai wrote to the Dean of Research and Development and the Director to look into the matter. On not receiving a response, he wrote to the Chairman of ISRO, alleging discrepancies and corruption. 

A show-cause notice was issued against Brijesh Rai on November 1. The notice cited reasons such as not “following protocol”,  saying Rai wrote to ISRO without informing the college authorities. The notice said it was “unbecoming of a faculty”. 

Rai says, “How is this unbecoming of a faculty member? It is one’s duty to report such incidences. Had I not reported it, it would have been a violation of my moral and civil duties.”

Rai’s case went to the disciplinary authority, the Board of Governors, but Rai says he was not given enough time to prepare for his representation. Rai says, “The director of IIT Guwahati called me and asked if I wished to resign because they are afraid that if they terminate me, they might face legal action.” 

On November 18, students organised a candle march to oppose Rai’s suspension and possible termination. Over a thousand students joined the march with posters, banners and candles, singing songs of justice and shouting slogans against the administration’s decision. 

A student who asked not to be named says, “Students feel there’s a deep-rooted conspiracy against Dr Rai. He is being tortured and harassed for being the torchbearer of truth in the institute.”

A former faculty member from IIT Guwahati says, “Dr Rai’s research areas are network information theory, which lies at the intersection of mathematics, computer science and electrical engineering. These areas are among the hardest ones to do research and Dr Rai is right at the top one per cent amongst the world, with 216 citations in his name.”

According to reports, the administration says that they haven’t communicated anything to Rai related to the termination of his services in any official capacity. 

Rai says, “I don’t wish to continue here. I have faced a lot of harassment and injustice. They didn’t let me appear for interviews for a permanent post despite my eligibility for the post. My research has suffered and I have been targeted. However, I will not resign because that will be a victory for them. I will continue to fight for what is right.”

Rai has not been informed about the final decision of the Board of Governors, scheduled for November 14, till date. Meanwhile, students continue the protest within the IIT Guwahati campus. 

Newslaundry contacted the administration but has not received a response. This story will be updated.

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