India Intelligence Report

 

 

   Quota Plan in Shambles

  Reports suggest that serious differences over strategy, financial requirements, and concerns of Constitutional validity within the Government may delay the Bill for Other Backward Classes (OBC).
 

 

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Reports suggest that serious differences over strategy, financial requirements, and concerns of Constitutional validity within the Government may delay the Bill for Other Backward Classes (OBC). With limited time to consider a slew of new legislation, the Federal Cabinet may instead consider more crucial and viable bills such as the Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) Amendment Bill on hostile witnesses, sugar price management, etc and may not even consider the recommendations of the Oversight Committee.

The OBC quota has been mired in controversy and has strong objections within the Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but has strong support from communists and regional parties who will typically see electoral gain with such a divisive legislation. While the Oversight Committee led by Veerappa Moily wants moderation, the proponents of the bill led by Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh want radical one-step introduction and implementation with a complete repeal of autonomy for all universities.

Moily insists that finance is not an issue as it will be met by depleting other essential initiatives such Right to Education that guarantees primary education to fund this politically convenient idea. The estimated cost of this initiative is Rs. 16,000 crores (USD 3.47 billion) including “recurring and non-recurring expenses.” However, the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management, and several premier Medical schools are skeptical that the Government will bulldoze the implementation and “not back it up with innovative steps or funding.”

The Oversight Committee was set by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this May to find a way to implement a 27% reservation for the OBC within the scope of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment passed this year. The committee was also to find ways to safeguard the students in the general category. The basis of the Committee’s solution is an increase in the number of seats in these colleges which require massive investments.

The institutions themselves have been complaining about a host of issues that makes the plan unviable in one shot:

  • Firstly, there is the financing element that Moily says can be done at great cost to the children who will be denied primary education.

  • Secondly, there is a shortage of teachers at these institutions and Arjun Singh’ recommendation is to lower the qualification of prospective teachers to fill the gap.

  • Thirdly, several studies have shown that even with lower entrance criteria, many seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are unfilled. Educators say that unless the primary education levels are strengthened, drastic improvement in quality of candidates at the higher levels is impossible.

  • Fourthly, there is fear that a reservation for the OBC will benefit only the creamy layer of these castes and not the truly deserving. The Government is actively considering the elimination of the creamy layer OBC from this list by including many of the right groups but carefully leaving out the kith of politicians.

  • Fifthly, the Constitutional validity of this initiative is in serious doubt as the Supreme Court is already hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

  • Sixthly, the premier institutions are worried that dilution of entrance levels will affect the quality of their output. The Moily committee has recommended that the institutions determine their own threshold levels and reservation implemented only if the highest quality in for both faculty and students are maintained even if the entrance qualification for OBC students will be “midway between those for SC/ST and the unreserved category.”

  • Seventhly, the premier institutions want this reservation only for post-graduate education and require remedial preparatory courses to bring OBC candidates on a competitive level with fellow students. The Moily Committee has proposed these recommendations but it is unclear if the caste-based politicians will agree to these conditions.

Even in the event that Government will consider this legislation, a Group of Ministers (GoM) has advised Manmohan Singh to look at a phased approach to implement this idea. The recommendation is limit the rule to Central educational institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Management, the Indian Institutes of Technology and aided deemed universities, while deferring decision on “unaided deemed universities” after Constitutional validity questions are ascertained. The 93rd Amendment itself is being questioned for Constitutional validity.