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April2013

Update on the appointment of Director IIT Kharagpur

Dear KGP-ians ..

It has been a month since the Board of Governors (BoG) IIT Kharagpur met and exonerated Dr.Partha Pratim Chakrabarti of all the charges brought against him in the “Coalnet Scandal”. With this clearance, the process of formally appointing the Director moved to MHRD and the CVC.

The delay in processing the appointment is attributed to key members of the CVC and the Chairman, BoG being away from their place of business and on vacation respectively.

We are very hopeful that since all parties have returned to their place of work, the appointment process shall proceed as per the protocol required and that an appointment of Dr.Partha Pratim Chakrabarti as Director, IIT Kharagpur shall be “Official” shortly.

We thank the alums for their patience.

Sincerely

Roy da Silva, President IIT Foundation.
Arjun Malhotra, Director IIT Foundation

PS: Enclosed below is a memo circulated to IIT Kharagpur faculty, by 7 members of the faculty, on April 8. Included with this memo a are “Some Facts” pertaining to the Coalnet Project which are very informative.

Dear Colleagues,

The faculty of IIT Kharagpur overwhelmingly responded and supported our spontaneous appeal dated 5-3-2013 and again on 14-3-2013 to the institute to exonerate Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti in connection with the Coalnet project. Several delegations of faculty that spontaneously met institute administration to express their anguish and frustration regarding this issue were truly unprecedented. The solidarity shown by the IIT Kharagpur faculty and subsequently of the alumni both from within and outside the country had a visible effect in a way that sustained media campaign which tarnished the image of both Prof. Chakarbarti and IIT Kharagpur had slowed down for some time.

Information received from various sources indicates that the Board of Governors (BOG), IIT Kharagpur in another meeting on 23-3-1013 took a positive decision and forwarded the case to MHRD. Subsequently we also appealed to the MHRD for clearing Prof. Chakrabarti of all spurious allegations and exonerating him once and for all.

However, at this very crucial juncture, we noticed a sudden spurt of activities which are again detrimental to the amicable solution of the problem.

Newspaper reports point to a crisis situation among CVC-MHRD and IIT Kharagpur in connection with an affidavit ( http://www.indianexpress.com/news/iit-kharagpur-defies-cvc-faces-heat/1098500/; http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/cvc-seeks-affidavit-from-hrd-ministry-on-iit-kharagpur-issue-113040400565_1.html). Again, we see attempts of linking the case of Prof. Chakrabarti with other issues. Several reports maligning Prof. Chakrabarti started appearing again and all these are happening when there is an expectation among the faculties about final solution of the present stalemate. We begin to suspect that vested interests are again active to damage the reputation of Prof. Chakrabarti and IIT Kharagpur. Anonymous letters containing derogatory comments about Prof. Chakrabarti are being circulated within the institute. Let us all be united and remain alert to thwart all such nefarious attempts of vested interests and protect our beloved institute and restore the image of Prof. Chakrabarti.
Further, during the last few months of turmoil no information percolated from the institute to the faculty that give a clear picture about the entire episode. Possibly in the minds of many still it is not clear how and where things went wrong and why the case of a SRIC project named ‘Coalnet’ that started in 2001, much before Prof. Chakrabarti took over the Deanship resurfaced in 2013, when he is poised to take over as the Director of the Institute.

Colleagues and friends, at this juncture, we feel that a white paper should be brought before the faculty depicting the chronology of events. As a first step towards this, we have assembled a few facts (see below) from various sources on the web for your knowledge. We continue to solicit your support for Prof. Chakrabarti till the case is resolved.

It is up to you to judge how the matters developed. As you see, there were opportunities to take timely decisions towards closing the case, but these were not taken. By keeping the matters under the wraps of secrecy it only helped vested interests to use the privileged information in maligning IIT Kharagpur. It is also clear that these vested interests launched a sustained media campaign to tarnish the image of IIT Kharagpur, and concocted manipulated stories to cause harm to the repute of the Institute.

Recent reports published in the Bengali dailies “The Bartaman” and “The Ebela” that the Higher Education Department, Govt. of West Bengal has decided to remove Prof. Chakrabarti from the Higher Education Advisory Committee and Jadavpur University Dean’s selection panel citing CVC indictment of Prof. Chakrabarti is an example of how misleading information can injure the reputation of an upright person. The end result is a grievous damage to the image of Prof. Chakrabarti, you, us, IIT Kharagpur and all its stake holders.

We can only hope that the issue is resolved soon and we all like to see IIT Kharagpur to move forward under a new invigorating leadership.

Thanks and regards.

Anindya Sarkar, Geology & Geophysics, anindya@gg.iitkgp.ernet.in
Dipanwita Roychowdhury, Computer Science & Engineering, drc@cse.iitkgp.ernet.in
Pallab Dasgupta, Computer Science & Engineering, pallab@cse.iitkgp.ernet.in
Santanu Bhowmik, Geology & Geophysics, santanu@gg.iitkgp.ernet.in
Siddhartha Sen, Electrical Engineering ssen@ee.iitkgp.ernet.in
Sudarsan Neogi, Chemical Engineering, sneogi@che.iitkgp.ernet.in
Sudeshna Sarkar, Computer Science & Engineering, sudeshna@cse.iitkgp.ernet.in
Sunando Dasgupta, Chemical Engineering, sunando@che.iitkgp.ernet.in

Some Facts

  1. The CBI report is regarding Phase 1 of the “Coalnet Application Software” project sponsored by Coal India Ltd (CIL). Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti was not involved in the project at all in Phase 1.
    Some details about the Coalnet project:
    • Based on communication between CIL and IIT Kharagpur in January 2000, the project proposal was submitted by Prof. R. N. Banerjee and his team in December 2000, where it was decided that personnel from TCG Software Services Pvt. Ltd (TCGSSPL) will be deputed to work on the project.
    • In April 2001, the investigators of the project wrote to the then Dean SRIC (Prof. A. K. Bhowmick) that a part of the project manpower needs to be taken from TCGSSPL as they have developed expertise on this. Approval was taken by Dean SRIC (Prof. Bhowmick) from the then Director (Prof. Amitabha Ghosh) to allow human resources from TCGSSPL for supporting this project on a single quotation basis. Prof. A. K. Bhowmick issued a Letter of intent (LOI) to the TCGSSPL.
    • In July 2001, the work order was issued by Prof. Bhowmick to TCGSSPL worth Rs 5.72 crore.
    • Start of Phase 2: In January 2004, Work Order of Coal Net Application Software Phase 2 was signed between CIL and IIT Kharagpur worth Rs 18.8 crore. Most of the paperwork for this was done during the tenure of Prof. A. K. Bhowmick as Dean, SRIC. Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti was appointed as the Dean SRIC on January 1, 2004 and he signed the Phase 2 agreement with CIL. (CBI enquiry is not related to Phase 2). Since earlier Dean (Prof. Bhowmick) had already signed cooperation terms with TCGSSPL for Phase 2, on 21st January 2004, Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti issued only a LOI to TCGSSPL, subject to signing a detailed agreement in 15 days.
    • In February 2004, Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti withdrew the earlier LOI issued to TCGSSPL as the terms of LOI were not met. He called for a meeting with the TCGSSPL officials. He also cancelled a Work Order issued to TCGSSPL in 2001.
    • Dean SRIC (Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti) signed a detailed manpower agreement with TCGSSPL for Phase 2 in April 2004 and mentioned that all work would be guided by the new agreement.
    • Prof. P. P. Chakrabarti in his capacity as Dean SRIC, informed Coal India Ltd. on May 11, 2004 that the project needed trained manpower from several sources. So IIT directly hired manpower and also recruited people from high quality firms like TCGSSPL. This was explicitly mentioned in this letter to CIL and reflected the ground truth.
      We quote the most relevant part of the letter that we could retrieve from web (http://storiesandinsidestories.blogspot.in/2012/08/facts-behind-coal-net-allegations.html)

      “As you are aware, architecting the software was a non-trivial job. The IIT professors have developed a unique software for you – something that is possibly not available anywhere else. However, the coding, customization and testing process in software development requires stable, trained manpower in large numbers. In order to maintain complete quality control in coding of the software, IIT uses manpower from two kinds of sources – one which it recruits and trains and another which it hires from firms that adhere to international quality standards. In every case, all hired people work under the direct supervision and control of IIT professors. In your case, we have hired manpower from a CMM5 quality company (TCG Software Services Pvt Ltd) who has agreed to code the software designed and developed by IIT Kharagpur professors under our guidance and control. We have also recruited manpower from the market for specialized work”.

  2. Summarising point 1, Prof. Chakrabarti was never an investigator in the Coalnet project, nor did he have any financial or technical involvement in the project. Prof. Chakrabarti assumed the post of Dean, SRIC in 2004. By then Phase 1 of the project was complete. CBI Enquiry is related only to Phase I and not related to Phase 2.
  3. Curiously the CBI probe was prompted by an anonymous complainant. However, CBI did not find evidence of any financial irregularity in the entire project. CBI had recommended minor penalty against Prof. Chakrabarti for “misrepresenting the facts to CIL”. Interestingly, the CBI report also states that this report “would not be cited to be relied upon documents”.
  4. Prof. Chakrabarti has been accused by the CBI of misprepresenting the facts about the project to CIL. But he wrote only one letter to CIL where he stated the true facts about how the project was being run. This cannot, in any way, be interpreted as misrepresentation.
  5. It seems that the CBI report was referred to IIT Kharagpur in 2007.
  6. Apparently an enquiry was conducted in 2008, where explanations were given by the three Professors namely, Prof. Bhowmick, Prof. R.N. Banerjee and Prof. Chakrabarti. It is not known what happened after that.
  7. In 2012, the matter was raked up when the post of IIT Kharagpur Director was advertised and Prof. Chakrabarti was selected by the selction committee. In 2012, the Board of Governors (BOG) quashed the charges and fully exonerated the three Professors, and also intimated the CBI and CVC.
  8. Subsequently after a long delay in March 2013, there were newspaper reports stating that CVC concurred with CBI. It also seems CVC indicated that IIT might not have followed proper procedure in handling this matter.
  9. Based on this, IIT again issued a Memo to Prof. Chakrabarti to which he submitted his reply. It appears that in a meeting, dated 23rd March 2013, the BOG examined Prof. Chakrabarti’s reply and it seems they took a unanimous decision to clear the charges. The BOG’s decision was conveyed to MHRD on 25th Mar 2013. Apparently all procedures required by CVC have been followed, and MHRD now needs to take necessary steps to obtain clearance for the pending appointment.
  10. It appears that vested interests are still trying to sabotage the process, and newspaper reports have come out, linking this case with a separate unrelated case, where IIT Kharagpur apparently filed an affidavit in Delhi High Court. Such insinuations are being repeatedly made to derail the procedure of closing the Coalnet case.
Posted by: Roy Dasilva @ Apr 27, 2013, 3:12 pm PDT    Filed under: Alumni    Add Comment »