The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gagged, Arjun gives quota voice to VCs

New Delhi, May 2: If the code of conduct for elections bars Arjun Singh from talking about reservation, he will do the listening instead.

The human resource development minister plans to use a two-day national conference of deemed-to-be university heads this week to launch the first government-sponsored discussion on the 27 per cent OBC quota in educational institutions since the controversy broke.

So far, no official forum has discussed the issue since the model code is in place because of the ongoing assembly polls.

A note circulated for the conference says: “Bearing in mind that the model code of conduct is in force', the central government is not in a position to discuss any new policies. Participants, however, may like to offer suggestions on Article 15 of the Constitution.”

An amendment to Article 15 passed in the winter session of Parliament empowered the government to provide a quota for OBCs in central education institutions, including IITs and IIMs.

This is the first time that the human resource development minister will address a conference of 102 deemed-to-be university heads.

The ministry has made it clear what it expects of them. “Being responsible institutions of higher education, deemed-to-be universities must be fully conscious of their social obligations,” says the note.

Arjun has been in a spot since the Election Commission charged him with a violation of the model code of conduct by announcing the 27 per cent quota.

Even as he was coming to grips with that ' he has replied to the commission ' the medical students’ agitation broke out and anti-quota doctors came to blows with police in the heart of Delhi. Today, a week after Arjun apologised to the protesters for the way they were handled by the police, medical and engineering students were again marching on Parliament Street.

Other students, in favour of the quota and asking for Muslims to be included in it, also hit the streets carrying placards that read: “Anti-reservation is anti-national” and “arrest and hang all anti-reservation elements”.

Arjun has faced criticism from some of his own party members on the quota and the government is looking at options to control the damage, but the note prepared by his ministry for the vice-chancellors’ conference this week suggests he is sticking his ground.

The 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act passed in December mandated the HRD ministry to draw up provisions to fulfil the commitment the government has made in Parliament. Accordingly, the ministry sent a note to the cabinet outlining the policy based on the Mandal formula of 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in jobs. It will be taken up after the elections.

At present, there is reservation only for Scheduled Castes (15 per cent) and Scheduled Tribes (7.5 per cent).

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