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Friday, July 14, 2006

India Intelligence Report

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   Arjun Kills Education Bill, Moots Muslim Reservation

 

 

  • HRD Minister Arjun Singh kills Education bill to fund quota system leaving 17 million children out of right to education

  • Moots reservation for Muslims considered unconstitutional by Supreme Court

  • Says Govt does not have a plan to make this a policy

Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh scuttled an important Right to Education Bill to make way for his reservation schemes that violate Constitutional norms for different pockets of population that is to now include “backward” Muslims. Referring to the Muslims who converted from so-called backward castes and identified by the Mandal Commission, Singh refused to divulge likely percentages that he had in mind.

Muslim political activists l have been asking for a 8% quota for Muslims within the 27% OBC quota in institutes of higher learning leaving only 19% for backward castes not proportionate to population numbers. However, all references to backward castes go back to a British schedule (and thus the name scheduled castes) that nominates castes to group of the other. With so many decades of development, there is no contemporary data on what castes are backward and what proportion of Muslims is backward. In fact, the Government does not even reveal Census data of population numbers for Muslims.

Addressing the media after talking to the National Monitoring Committee for Minorities' Education, Singh hastened to reiterate that there was no plan to give reservation to any groups on religious grounds. Previously, Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Tamil Nadu (TN) had created local ordinances to provide quota for Muslims in education and Government jobs and the AP case was thrown out by the High Court and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court (SC). The TN case has not seen a legal battle yet.

Singh was also evasive on the status of the OBC Quota Bill reaffirming rumors that this policy is facing internal and external resistance.

The HRD Minister announced a slew of measures to educationally empower the Muslims in the country. Apart from the modernization of Madrasas, the Government is to set up Urdu schools along the pattern of Navodya and Central schools insisting that “There is a need to open Kasturba Girls Urdu schools in the areas with concentration of Muslim population.” He also revealed that the Vice Chancellors of Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Milia Islamia, and Maulana Azad Urdu University would look into the issue of training Urdu teachers in the country. He did not mention if these schools will bring Muslim children at par with scientific developments in the nation and the world or whether they will also be exposed to other languages other than Urdu.

His vote politics has grown to such an extent that he has even sacrificed the future of 17 million below the poverty children who could have benefited from the Right to Education Bill to create vote banks with the OBC. While money is being funneled into higher educational institutions to fund the quota plan even before it is law, the Government is giving up on the Education Bill saying that it has no more money. The Education Bill would have made education a fundamental right for children aged 6-14.

Private schools are also are opposing the Bill as it mandates that even private and elite schools reserve 25% seats for poor children. The sub-committee the Central Advisory Board Education which prepared the draft Bill held this provision as a significant prerequisite for creating a democratic and egalitarian society. The Law Commission, which prepared an alternative draft Bill, said 50% of seats should be reserved for the poor in all schools, irrespective of management or financing. But this directive could have been created only by bureaucrats who do not have any rooting in reality. Private schools are very demanding in terms of English, school work, funds, textbooks, uniforms, field trips, etc that need extra bit of coaching, mentoring, tutoring, and funding. Without providing for these support facilities, throwing poor children into classrooms with children who are more economically empowered is setting them up for failure. Many of the poor children do not have electricity at homes, educated parents, extra monies for tuition, or to buy expensive books and uniform. While the children themselves are extremely bright when given a chance, what is required is a holistic approach to lifting them out of poverty and not a bureaucratic rule. For these reasons, educationists refuse to accept the reasons given by the government.

Disregarding this 25% reservation mandate for the schools, the Government’s policy of creating more seats for higher education to facilitate the reservation policy without providing for elementary education is shockingly nonsensical.

Political grandstanding has robbed children of development. While the Constitution was amended 6 years ago to made education a fundamental right, there is now law that the Federal Government can send to the States to implement.


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