The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cabinet rein on quota rush

New Delhi, April 10: A week before Arjun Singh let the quota cat out of the bag, he had suffered something of a rebuff from the cabinet secretariat on the subject.

On March 27, Arjun’s ministry had requested the cabinet to discuss at its next meeting the proposal to reserve 27 per cent seats for other backward classes in educational institutions, including the IITs and IIMs.

The cabinet secretariat returned the note in days. It said the matter has serious political overtones and might violate the poll code if taken up before the Assembly polls ' a line of thinking that later prompted the Election Commission to ask Arjun to explain why he had publicised the plan.

Ministry officials are arguing that the cabinet secretariat’s refusal had nothing to do with the formula itself but only with the timing of the discussion. Yet there is talk that the Prime Minister isn’t too happy with the proposal ' a subject Prime Minister’s Office sources declined to comment on.

They, however, accept the ministry’s claim that Manmohan Singh had been kept informed at every stage as the quota blueprint was worked out.

But the opposition to the proposal from members of the Knowledge Commission 'which was set up at the Prime Minister’s initiative and reports directly to him ' might provide an insight into his mind.

Panel chairperson Sam Pitroda says he and his colleagues had no knowledge of the plan; convener Pratap Bhanu Mehta has asked members to write to the Prime Minister against the quota.

A week after the cabinet secretariat returned the note, Arjun said on the sidelines of a news conference that the government would decide on the quota after the polls. His ministry expects a green light, because every political party had backed the 93rd Constitution Amendment Bill that paved the way for the quota.

The bill, now an act, guarantees reservation for “socially and educationally backward classes”. Backward caste leaders such as Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Uma Bharti had asked that the OBCs be explicitly mentioned, but Arjun assured them that the existing expression did include the backwards.

A meeting of the six IIMs today discussed the proposed quota among several issues, the director of the Ahmedabad institute, Bakul Dholakia, confirmed. “But we cannot tell you what we discussed. We will react only after we get the circular.”

CAT in November

The meeting took three decisions on CAT. One, this year’s exam will be held on November 19. Two, the exam’s centre will shift from Ahmedabad to Bangalore for three years in keeping with a rotation policy. Three, the IIM admissions list for 2006-08 will come out on April 12.

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