The suspension of K S James, Director of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), has sparked a great deal of controversy within the academic and research community.
With more than 26 years of research and teaching experience in population studies, James has a distinguished record and an extensive list of publications in renowned journals.
However, recent events have led to his suspension, leaving many questioning the reasons behind this unprecedented decision.
Who is the director of IIPS, KS James?
K S James is an eminent scholar in the field of population studies, known for his exceptional scholarly achievements and research contributions.
He previously held prestigious positions such as Professor of Population Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Professor and Head of the Center for Population Research at the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bengaluru.
With postdoctoral training from the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard, USA, and a Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he has devoted his career to the study of demographic change, population development and issues related to ageing.
His research papers have appeared in leading journals such as Science, Lancet Global Health, Social Science and Medicine, and Population Studies, earning him international recognition. As IIPS Director since 2018, James has played a crucial role in leading the institute's research efforts and initiatives.
Why controversy over his suspension?
The suspension of K S James came as a surprise to the academic community, with little clarity initially provided by the authorities. Reports in The Wire indicate that the suspension was issued citing recruitment irregularities. However, specific details about the alleged wrongdoing have not yet been revealed.
Adding to the intrigue is the government's earlier request for James to resign due to dissatisfaction with certain IIPS survey data sets. However, James was reportedly reluctant to step down and the reasons behind his refusal remain unknown.
The timing of James' suspension raises questions, considering the recent release of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted by IIPS. The survey results presented data sets that were inconvenient for the government, contradicting earlier claims made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In particular, the NFHS-5 findings revealed that 19% of households in India still practice open defecation, calling into question the claim that India is "free of open defecation".
Additionally, states like Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar showed significant populations without access to toilets, especially in rural areas. The survey results highlighted the need to improve sanitation facilities across the country.
The 'Poshan Abhiyan', a government policy aimed at improving nutritional indicators, also faced scrutiny when NFHS-5 data indicated poor performance in reducing the prevalence of anemia in girls and adolescents. Instead, the prevalence of anemia increased compared to the previous period of NFHS-4.
Given James' background in population studies and his role as director of the IIPS, many experts and researchers in the field have raised concerns about the suspension and the implications he may have on the institute's research and reputation.
As the controversy unfolds, calls for transparency and clarity from the authorities have intensified, with the academic and research community eagerly awaiting more details about the suspension and the alleged recruitment irregularities.
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