The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) recently came out with some shocking data related to the top engineering and technology institution of the country – The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The HRD Ministry reported that 2,461 students dropped out from the IITs in the past 2 years.

Out of them, 1290 belong to the general category and the remaining 1,171 students belong to the reserved category (SC, ST and OBC). The HRD Ministry presented this data in the parliament.

The dropout rate is highest in the older IITs like DelhiKharagpur, Bombay, Kanpur and Madras. While IIT Delhi recorded 782 dropout students, IIT Kharagpur recorded 622. As many as 263 students dropped out from IIT Bombay and 190 students dropped out from IIT Kanpur. The dropout rate for IIT Madras is 128 students.

On an average, around 9000 students get admitted into the IITs at the undergraduate level and approximately 8,000 students get admitted in the postgraduate level. Experts, after analyzing the situation, have pointed out certain probable reasons behind this alarming dropout rate. Caste discrimination and pressure have come out as the primary cause. Second, it was seen that many students at the postgraduate level dropped out to take up jobs.

The IITs have been instructed by the HRD Ministry to look into the matter and prescribe ways to stop this trend. The IITs have taken to certain measures for the same.

The institutes have deployed advisers who would monitor the academic progress of the students. The students identified as comparatively weak, academically, will be given additional classes. The IITs have also arranged for counselling facilities for students and their families.

Faculty members of the IITs are shocked at the revelation of the HRD Ministry. Professor Dhiraj Sanghi points out that the MTech students tend to leave after bagging jobs with PSUs that typically hire in July. He expressed hope that the government will advise the PSUs to hire in June in order to stop students from dropping out.

As pointed out by Director of IIT Delhi, V Ramgopal Rao, undergraduate students drop out when they are unable to take the academic pressure of the IITs. He added that many students who come from schools of vernacular medium face a problem of adjustment.

Documentary filmmaker Anoop Kumar and Dalit right activist Suraj Yengde have stressed on this issue. Going by the figures, the dropout proportion is much higher in students belonging to the reserved categories. Kumar and Yengde say that these students, who mostly come from vernacular medium schools, have a tough time adjusting with the ways of the IITs. This leads to them lagging behind in academic matters. Kumar and Yengde suggest that the IITs should ensure that these students are inducted well into the curriculum.

Naveen Kumar, a former Delhi IIT-ian and a member of the Bahujan Azad Party said that caste discrimination within the four walls of the IITs is a reality. He recounted an incident when somebody had written the words “SCs, STs, not allowed here” outside a student’s hostel room. Complaints to the dean had yielded in zero results.

An IIT professor has said that giving a caste-colour to the dropout issue is pointless. He says that the fact that students of the reserved category find it difficult to cope up with the academic curriculum is a fact. However, this has nothing to do with caste. It happens because these students are absorbed by IITs based on merit lower than general category students. Inside the system, things change for them and most often they are unable to bear the pressure.

Whatever be the reason, the IITs should buck up and ensure that this dropout rate is lowered, rather zeroed, at the earliest.