The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota with more seats
Bill next session on 27% reservation

New Delhi, May 23: The government tonight decided to implement a 27 per cent quota for other backward classes (OBCs) in higher educational institutions from the academic year beginning June 2007 while increasing seats for general-category students.

A meeting of the coordination committee of the United Progressive Alliance chose to enforce the measure by introducing a bill in the monsoon session of Parliament, which will begin sometime in July.

“The percentage of reservation for OBCs will be fixed at 27 per cent. Legislation for this purpose will be brought in Parliament in the monsoon session,” defence minister Pranab Mukherjee said after a resolution was passed at a three-hour meeting of the UPA committee and the Left.

Hoping to address the concerns of quota protesters, Mukherjee said the number of general-category seats in educational institutions under the Union government would be increased.

Medical students on a hunger strike at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences were disappointed with the development.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who resigned from the Prime Minister’s Knowledge Commission yesterday, told a TV channel that the decision marked a “black chapter in the history of Indian education”.

Under the package cleared tonight, an oversight committee will be constituted to draw up a time-bound road map to implement the decisions. Smaller groups of deans, directors and vice-chancellors of the institutions concerned will be set up to work out details of reservation and increase the number of seats.

The oversight committee will put together the recommendations of these groups and submit a report by August 31.

Mukherjee said the UPA and the Left resolved that the 93rd amendment to the Constitution, providing for reservation in educational institutions, would be implemented in letter and spirit.

The resolution to implement the 93rd amendment was adopted after human resource development minister Arjun Singh, who had set the ball rolling for fixing the quota at 27 per cent, made a presentation at the meeting.

At a meeting earlier in the day, the Congress’s southern allies, along with the Left, had put pressure on the government to issue an ordinance to implement the quota but that move was jettisoned in favour of a bill. An ordinance, it was felt, would only stoke the fire of controversy.

A bill, rather than an ordinance, was as far as the section within the government that wanted to move more cautiously could go, giving in on the larger issue of reservation and its implementation at one go with a 27 per cent content.

Such a decision was not on the committee’s agenda, but the intense pressure by the southern MPs forced the government’s hand. S. Ramadoss, the PMK leader, was constantly interacting with the Left till the evening meeting.

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