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,
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
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