| Medical students protest in Amritsar. (AFP)
Calcutta, May 24: Bengal will have an Other Backward Classes quota in higher education, but it’s likely to be less than 27 per cent, the CPM said today.
The party’s state secretary, Biman Bose, said there can’t be the same percentage of quotas across the country because the proportion of OBCs varies. In Bengal, the group makes up 15.8 per cent of the population compared with the national average of 52 per cent.
He added that at the same time, seats should be increased to accommodate meritorious students.
“Quotas can’t exist at the cost of merit and excellence. So, there should be an increase in the number of seats along with the introduction of OBC quotas.”
Bose, who is also the Left Front chairman, added that he had spoken to a cross-section of students to gauge their feelings. “I have come to know that students have an apprehension that there will be a reduced chance of meritorious students getting admitted to medical and engineering courses because of the introduction of quotas.”
Although Bose spoke of keeping the quota percentage in Bengal lower than 27, legal experts doubted whether the state government would have the final say on the matter.
Article 251 of the Constitution says any law made by Parliament on a concurrent list subject like education is binding on states. So, there is no need for a state to pass a separate law on the subject.
A particular state government, however, is allowed to lower the percentage of reservation through legislation passed in the Assembly.
An official in the state legal department, however, said the same article in the Constitution says that the Centre, if it wants, can override this as well.
In this particular instance, however, the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act specifies no percentage.
The 27 per cent quota the Centre announced yesterday applies only to institutions of higher education run by it.
Human resource development minister Arjun Singh has written to state governments asking them to enact their own legislation reserving seats for the OBCs.
OBC reservation in Bengal is now limited to government schools, though there is a 22 per cent quota for the Scheduled Castes and 6 per cent for the Scheduled Tribes in higher education.
Officials at Writers’ Buildings said the school OBC quota is 7 per cent.