India Intelligence Report

   SC Intervenes on Quota, Demands Answers from Govt


The Supreme Court (SC) admitted a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the ongoing quota issue and asked several inconvenient questions to the Government while appealing to the striking doctors to withdraw their strike. The issue was created by the Government’s decision to go ahead with a 27% reservation for so-called Other Backward Classes despite contrary evidence and advice against by every major statutory and educational institution in the country.

The questions raised by the SC were:

  • What is basis for determination as to who belongs to OBC?

  • What is the material/statistical data that laid the foundation for the policy and the modalities the government intended to adopt for implementation of the policy?

The court has granted various Ministries including the Human Resources Development, social justice and welfare, and science and technology 8 weeks to respond. The court expressed concerns that this quota move has serious social and political ramifications and said that “this aspect will be dealt with appropriately” if it became necessary. The court also admitted if they have addressed “the core of the issues” but said it wants to “find the cream of the matter.”

There has been no caste based census in India since 1931 and the political class has been resistant to the idea of such a survey for the longest time. The Mandal Commission estimated that the percentage of the OBCs in India is 52% but researchers question the veracity of that estimate. According to the National Sample Survey, the OBC percentage was pegged at 36% and 32% if backward Muslims are eliminated from this list. Researchers also say that a National Family Health Statistics survey found similar results. Most importantly, a Parliament’s standing committee on social justice and empowerment concluded that there were no authentic estimates of the “backwards.”

Meanwhile the Government has appointed an “oversight committee” led by Congress veteran Veerappa Moily which has been promising that quality will not be compromised, enough seats will be available for all, etc. It is not clear how Moily is promising all these things when every available research shows exactly the opposite. Moily says that the 5000 graduates out of the 8 Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) is not enough to build a knowledge society. He quotes figures of several Universities in the US that produce 4000-5000 graduates each. What he does not say though is that for those Universities to be able to produce so many qualified and quality graduates took decades of evolution, investment, and careful grooming and did not happen in a year as the Government wishes.

Joining a chorus of those opposing the Government’s move, the National Human Rights Council has asked for a review of the decision and said the policy will be disastrous for the nation. The Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT) have all come out to oppose the move saying that any expansion will take at least 3 years to implement and would worsen the teacher-student ratio.

The main opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that it favors quotas but wants the “creamy layer” out of the equation. They did not specify how they will determine who belongs to an OBC and also the means to distinguish “creamy layer.”

Meanwhile, the newly elected minority Government in Tamil Nadu led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) said that they would introduce a bill that will reserve 5% of seats for Muslims. This bill will however be dead on arrival as a similar measure by Andhra Pradesh (AP) was struck down by the AP High Court.

The striking doctors appreciated the SC comments and questions but insisted that they will continue with their strike. IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur, Benares Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University students continued their relay hunger strike. The faculty of the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) decided to go on a 24 hour fast in support of the striking doctors and students. Over the weekend, a couple of students attempted self-immolation but were thankfully saved.

With these new developments, it is not clear if Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh will still go on his 9-day tour of Saudi Arabia.