While all of India has been busy discussing who is sniffing which white powder, Mr Arjun Singh has injected the second dose of his lethal 'reservation' cocktail into the Indian education system.
The Indian Express on Sunday dt Jun 4 2006 reported :
On May 29, the very day the Supreme Court observed that quotas can divide the nation and asked the Government to explain its rationale behind the 27% OBC quotas, HRD Minister Arjun Singh further tightened the quota screws on the higher-education sector, both public and private.
In a note prepared that day for the Cabinet, his Ministry has proposed a legislation with provisions that give the Government unprecedented power not only to impose quotas in over 100 “deemed universities” over and above 32 Central institutions but also to regulate their fees, selection procedure—and even take punitive action.
So not just IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, the institutions which are brought into the 27% OBC quota net include Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani; Manipal Academy of Higher Education; Pune’s Symbiosis International Education Centre and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
This was, of course the original intention of the 93rd constitutional amendment. To give the government control over all educational institutes - not just publicly funded ones. The 'Education in India' (Prayatna) blog has summarised the sequence of events beautifully, so I shall merely reproduce what's been written there:
The Supreme Court delivered an unanimous judgement by 7 judges on August 12, 2005 in the case of P.A. Inamdar & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors.declaring that the State can't impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges, including professional colleges.
Politicians ko yeh hazam nahin hua.
The Minister for Human Resource Development, Arjun Singh, drafted and piloted the 104th Constitution Amendment Bill which was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 21st with 379 votes in favour and one vote against and one abstaining. The Rajya Sabha also passed it on December 22nd with 172 votes in favour and only two against.
Only minority education institutions were kept out of the purview of the bill - and that was the only aspect of the bill which the BJP opposed.
According to the Constitution 93rd amendment Act
"(5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30."
Prayatna further notes
Article 15 of the constitution, as it was originally framed in 1950, stated the following and did not include the term "admission to educational institutions".
15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
- The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or
(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.
Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
Article 15 was first amended by the the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 enacted on June 18, 1951. While this Amendment mentions "educational advancement", it does not use the term "admission to educational institutions" either.
So basically, there is no compulsion for anyone to introduce 'quotas' and that too based on the Mandal Commission definition of OBC.
It is politicians who redefined and subverted the idea of 'educational advancement' into admission into graduate and post graduate courses by reservation.
And I have no idea why BITS Pilani, which so far has had 0% reservation, should accept this kind of dispensation. Surely it infringes on their basic Constitutional rights - although I am no legal expert to be able to pinpoint exactly.
Watch out here we come...
Among the key provisions of the proposed Bill, titled Central Educational Institutions (Reservation of Seats and Regulation of Admission and Fee) Bill, 2006 : (as per Express on Sunday)
There will be a “differential fee structure” for SC/ ST/ OBC students to make “reservation a meaningful reality.”
There are alternate means to fulfil this goal such as scholarships, low or zero interest loans - as is done in other countries. Because if these institutes start making losses because the government is fixing their fee structure, unlike IITs and IIMs they can't simply throw up their hands and ask the Centre for 'more funds'. Or can they?
The Government can, "by order, direct any Central Educational Institution to increase the number of seats in each branch or faculty," to protect the number of seats available for general students.
Again, who will bear the cost of such an expansion? BITS for example has just setup a new campus in Goa. And plans another in Hyderabad in 2007. Does that count? And if they refuse to increase seats in Pilani, isn't it their prerogative??
Unaided institutions deemed to be universities shall make admissions in “a fair and transparent manner,” on the basis of qualifying examinations prescribed by UGC.
BITS is the first institute in India to have an online exam - BITSAT. Now I suppose that will have to be scrapped?
I asked a BITS Pilani student for a reaction and here's what he had to say:
A majority of my friends are shocked by the news ( that the much-protested reservations are going to be implemented in BITS as well). The reason is that admission into our insti. is *purely* on the basis of merit- caste plays absolutely no role.
So all of us were of the opinion that if the government cant force us to have quotas for SC/ST's, then they can't push us into introducing reservations for OBCs etc. This arm-twisting by the Govt. is resented by the students (I do not know the management's opinion ).
Quite a few were secretly hoping that quotas be implemented in IITs (as I've said earlier: all this while we were thinking that we were immune )-so that the quality of IITs decline, and we become the undisputed #1 college in the country.
Let's not start squabbling over that last statement. Because there you have it - nobody is going to 'escape' Mr Arjun Singh's prescription for social justice. Can Indian education survive his overdose or will it prove fatal? The outlook is looking pretty bleak!