People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 22

May 28, 2006



Reservations: A Balanced Decision 


FINALLY, the UPA and the Left parties have decided, on May 23, 2006 to bring forward necessary legislation for implementing a 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in all educational institutions under the purview of the central government. Readers will recall that the 93rd amendment to the Indian Constitution adopted in a show of rare unanimity by all political parties, provided for reservations to the SC, ST, OBCs in all educational institutions, including private unaided institutions except minority institutions as defined by Article 30 of the Constitution. This enabling legislation requires legal provisions for its implementation. The central government has now announced its decision to bring such a legislation in the monsoon session of the parliament in July to make reservations effective from June 2007. The state assemblies must, henceforth, bring similar legislation based upon the concrete conditions obtaining in their respective states. 
The additional significance of the May 23 decision lies in the fact that the UPA government will utilise the time till June 2007 to expand the facilities in all educational institutions under the purview of the central government to ensure that there is no reduction in the seats available under the general category. A high power committee under the chairmanship of member education, planning commission, including the heads of major institutions, will be set-up to prepare and execute the plan for such an expansion. 
With this, the apparent dissatisfaction being expressed through agitations by certain sections, mainly the striking doctors (causing large-scale inconvenience to those requiring medical attention), at the prospect of the general seats being reduced as a consequence of OBC reservations must come to rest. The fears that such reservations will adversely affect the prospect of general category students must be allayed with the expansion of facilities. Under these circumstances, the UPA government, with this decision, sought to adopt a balanced approach in meeting the requirements of social justice without adversely affecting the interests of others. Through these columns in the past, we had articulated the need to balance the objectives of the eternal triangle of Indian education – quality, quantity and equity. In the present circumstances, this decision of the UPA government is the only way to move towards achieving such a balance.   
It is, indeed, unfortunate that the opposition to the reservations continues inspite of this balanced approach. This clearly smacks of a blatant upper caste bias that spearheads the current opposition, ably assisted by sections of the media. If this strike is continuing, then, clearly, its objective is not a protest against the potential decrease in the seats for the general category, but its aim seems to be to oppose reservations altogether. 
Reports that in many parts of the country, particularly in Mumbai, the protest actions are being organised by professional event managers (private companies) strengthens the suspicion of a vehement upper-caste motivation to oppose reservations altogether. In addition, the motivation of the owners of private educational institutions in terms of monetary gains can also not be overlooked. This delay of a year in implementing the reservations will yield a massive benefit to these sections. During 2005-2006, the total intake in private unaided professional institutions (excluding medical colleges) was 5,14,356. If the reservations for SCs, STs, and OBCs is implemented, 50 per cent of these would go into this category. The legislation also envisages a differential fee structure for these sections which may go up to the extent of 50 per cent of what is charged for the general category. At a very low average fee for general category at Rs 60,000 per annum, income from one half of the 2005-2006 intake would amount to Rs 1542 crore. The income from the other half of the reserved category would be half at Rs 771 crore. The loss for these colleges with the implementation of reservations would be to the tune of Rs 771 crore. Add to this, the annual intake in private medical institutions estimated at a little over 20,000 students. Even if Rs 3 lakh is considered as the average annual fee, the implementation of reservations would lead to a loss of Rs 150 crore. The stakes are, therefore, very high for the private institutions. If reservations in private institutions have to be prevented, then reservations in government institutions of higher education must be opposed to begin with. 
The continuing protests even after this balanced decision strips the mask of all the arguments advanced by these sections. All intellectual pretensions of seeking to counterpose “affirmative action” as an alternative to reservations is just a diabolic subterfuge to subvert social justice. While various well-meaning approaches must be considered for a proper social inclusiveness in India, rejecting reservations in the name of affirmative action is nothing but a desire to perpetuate eternally the upper-caste domination. Reservations, in fact, are a part of affirmative action.  


With this decision of the UPA government, the mindless frenzy that is sought to be whipped up must cease. It must be underlined that the need to achieve a proper balance between quantity, quality and equity in Indian education assumes greater importance considering that 54 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 25. This is India’s future. If this youth can be both healthy and educated, this would be India’s greatest asset in transforming our country into a truly knowledge society. India has to rise above merely training personnel to man BPOs and call centres.  


Let us move forward in this direction rejecting firmly the efforts of the upper caste vested interests to perpetuate the caste divide and deepen divisive caste-based passions and prejudices.