NIFT: Unsuitable appointments


NIFT: Unsuitable appointments


“My fashion sense is not being flamboyant but well-dressed. I am not dashing fashion-oriented because I have to go with what suits my age. But I like to dress up smartly and well.” This quote by Chetan Chauhan to The Indian Express given by the newly minted chairperson of The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has got to be the quote of last week. That a well-known cricketer and public person should have to defend his clothing sense shows how superficially he understands fashion and how the notion of dressing well has got mixed up in his head as a mandatory part of his new role. Most importantly why he didn’t get it that his dress code—good or not—is the least of all problems.

Much ado is being made of the former Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament and the vice president of Delhi and District Cricket Association’s appointment to NIFT. Chauhan takes over from Kiran Dhingra, a retired IAS officer as the chairman. It is indeed cause for consternation, even ridicule, as is more than evident given the reactions from various bodies. But what about another appointee announced in the same notification? Ruby Yadav, described as ‘Mrs. India Queen’ 2013 and ‘Mrs. Universe West Asia 2015’, as well as a social activist and philanthropist in her social media business cards is also a BJP politician seen in more than a couple of photographs on the Internet lighting assorted inaugural lamps with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is on the NIFT board of governors too now.

What’s key here is that Yadav has no background either in fashion education or fashion technology unless somebody putting the appointment list together got blindsided by her yellow blonde dyed hair and bright lipsticks.


These are no random appointments. Or perhaps they are? The NIFT Act of 2006 mandates that the institute will have a board of governors. This board is constituted every three years and besides a director general, a financial adviser, a joint secretary (all ex officio) and a representative from the ministry or department in the government of India dealing with NIFT and higher education, it must have two members from the Lok Sabha, one from the Rajya Sabha (Kanimozhi, Poonam Mahajan and V. Satyabhama are on the NIFT Board based on this logic). Five more experts are nominated to this board by the Central government representing the states in which the campuses of the institute are located as well as “two experts in fashion technology one of whom shall be an educationist to be nominated by the Visitor on the recommendations of the Central Government.”

Yadav is one among these “two” as specified by the act. The other is P.K. Gupta, founder and chancellor of Sharda University. Gupta is no fashion technologist either though those defending his appointment will use his “educationist” profile as an argument.

According to this act, the chairperson must be an “eminent academician, scientist, technologist or professional to be appointed by Visitor”. “Visitor” means the President of India though recommendations for these posts are made by the central government.

If you stretch the chairperson’s qualifications as described in the Act, Chauhan is neither an eminent academician, scientist nor technologist but he is a professional alright. That he is a “BJP person” makes this appointment open to political scepticism but it also proves how little the present government cares about NIFT as a fashion education institute to have named a chairperson whose entire “professional” experience is as removed from fashion as is Rohit Bal’s from cricket.

Founded in 1986 with lofty ambitions for high quality fashion education to bolster and feed India’s growing fashion industry flexing its own business muscle instead of just depending on exports, NIFT has been mired in bureaucratic tangles for many years now. Instead of contemporary updates to the curricula, new and relevant courses better suited to the dynamically changing fashion industry of India, inter industry dialogues with various stakeholders, stabilising of floundering campuses like Jodhpur and Raebareli, investing in the research work and facilities for the existing faculty, the government gives it a chairperson and board members who know zilch about the fashion industry (and we don’t mean the clothes). Who cares about the Emperor’s clothes?