The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha merit mantra to terminate quota raj

Hooghly, Nov. 15: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today trashed the practice of caste-based reservation of seats for students seeking admission to higher educational institutions.

Addressing the second Social Science Congress here, Bhattacharjee said his government, now well into education reforms, would work towards abolishing the quota system.

The Congress was jointly organised by the Indian Academy of Social Science and the government. Higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty inaugurated the three-day meet at the Mohsin College this morning.

“We are still far from providing higher education to the deserving. If we maintain the quota system in higher education only for the benefit of candidates from the backward classes, we will end up depriving the meritorious,” Bhattacharjee said.

However, the chief minister did not clarify how his government intended to go about in abolishing the system. There are sharp divisions among the top CPM leadership over Bhattacharjee’s proposal.

While school education minister Kanti Biswas and several senior party leaders want the system to continue, few like Bhattacharjee are of the opinion that it stands as a barrier before the meritorious students.

Bhattacharjee today came down heavily on the recommendations made by the Mandal Commission and said: “Even B.R. Ambedkar wanted reservations for backward classes, scheduled castes and tribes only for 10 years after Independence.”

“Ambedkar’s dream was not fulfilled” and the system is still continuing, the chief minister added.

“Economic status, not class, creed or religion should be the criteria for a person to get financial support from the government in establishing himself,” the chief minister said.

The government is working hard for the uplift of the living conditions of people belonging to the economically weaker sections, he claimed.

“I am going to Purulia tomorrow to meet representatives of the Birbhog community, to try and sort out their problems. There are 68,000 people belonging to Lodha community in Bankura, only 1,157 persons belonging to the Toto community in Jalpaiguri and only 330 from the Birbhog community. We have to make out a comprehensive plan to protect these communities as they are gradually becoming extinct,” he added.

Bhattacharjee said the government will continue the rationing system for the people below poverty line. “There is a hue and cry that we are going to withdraw the public distribution system. But I want to tell you very clearly that we will give priority to the people living below poverty line,” he said.

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