The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota cloud fuels IIM seat hike drive

New Delhi, March 28: The Centre’s move to extend reservation of seats to other backward classes in central universities and top technological and business schools may not affect students in the general category.

To offset the impact of the increased reservation ' a result of the 93rd constitutional amendment bill that was passed in the winter session ' the government is thinking of raising the total number of seats in professional institutions like IITs and IIMs.

The logic is if seats are increased, students in the general category will not suffer as the number of seats available to them will not shrink. At the same time, there will also be a quota for OBC students but it will not cut into the slice of seats for general students.

At present, only scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students enjoy the benefit of 22.5 per cent reservation ' 15 per cent for the former and 7.5 per cent for scheduled castes. The bill, passed to undo a Supreme Court order scrapping quotas in educational institutions, makes it obligatory for central and state governments to also reserve seats for OBCs.

Human resource development minister Arjun Singh has written to state governments to implement the mandate of the bill. The crucial issue before the Centre now is how to thrash out a reservation formula for OBC students. If the Centre wants, it can adopt the post-Mandal formula for reservation in government jobs.

The formula for reservation in government jobs is this: Of a total of 49 per cent reservation, 15 per cent goes to SCs, 7.5 per cent to STs and 27 per cent to OBCs.

If this formula is adopted in educational institutions also, reservation for OBC students can go up to 27 per cent. Some in the government, however, believe this might be too steep.

The Centre has been stressing on the need to increase the number of seats in professional institutions, particularly in IITs and IIMs. At a meeting with IIM directors two months ago, Singh said they must increase seats to meet the growing demand from students.

By linking reservation to increase in seats, the HRD ministry can kill two birds with one stone.

On the one hand, it can implement its commitment to OBC students made in the amendment bill and, on the other, it can get the top business schools to increase their student intake.

Parties cutting across political lines have backed the amendment bill, but there is scepticism among academics about whether increased reservation would really help those for whom the move is being taken.

“This is nothing but politics. Politicians from every party are doing this,” said Kasturi Lal Chopra, a former IIT director.

Chopra said reservation for SC and ST students in IITs “has not really helped them” and added that the premier institutes adopt flexible examination norms for students who find it difficult to cope with the academic pressures.

“We allow them to repeat their examinations if they fail,” he said.

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