| Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University protest against the Supreme Court stay on reservation in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, March 30: Sitting in his rented room in south Delhi’s Jia Sarai, Rajesh Kumar stared at his stick-thin fore and middle fingers as they kept repeating a nervous cycle — winding around each other only to unwind in an instant.
The bespectacled 24-year-old from a village in northern Madhya Pradesh had been “confident” of realising his dream of studying at the country’s top management school — but only till yesterday.
Now, he’s preparing himself for two weeks on tenterhooks till the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, comes out with its admissions list.
The Supreme Court’s stay on Other Backward Classes reservation means Rajesh, an IIM Ahmedabad aspirant and OBC candidate, suddenly finds himself in the unexpected position of probably having to compete not with fellow OBC students but with those from the general category.
“Once the law was passed, I had thought the matter had been settled once and for all. Yesterday’s order came out of nowhere, like a thunderbolt,” Rajesh said. His initial shock is slowly giving way to frustration.
He had been so confident about his interview earlier this month at IIM Ahmedabad that he didn’t appear for the IIM Bangalore interview. “Now I’m kicking myself.”
Although the IIMs say they are still exploring the possibility of accommodating the toppers in the OBC category “through some mechanism”, officials admit that the chances are dim.
“We have a board meeting tomorrow where this matter will be discussed,” Professor Ajay Pande, in charge of admissions at IIM Ahmedabad, said over the phone.
He added that the IIMs planned to stick to their deadline of releasing their final list of successful candidates by April 12.
In the most likely scenario, only those OBC students who clear the general category cut-offs at the interview stage will be admitted this year.
“I don’t mind competing in CAT (Common Admission Test) with general category students. The problem arises at the interview stage.
“We (OBC students) can’t speak chaste English like many of the general category students. That’s why the quota was so important for us,” said Rajesh.
His friend Sandeep, who lives just two rooms away, seemed more relaxed. He, too, had sought IIM admission under the quota and had cleared CAT.
“I guess I’m relaxed because my interview went badly and I didn’t expect to get through. But I feel bad for Rajesh and others like him. It’s not done to raise people’s expectations only to dash them later. It’s unfair,” he said.
“Unfair” is a word the Union human resource development ministry will hear repeatedly in the coming days if the OBC quota for this year falls through, warn Rajesh and Sandeep.
Sukhbir Singh couldn’t care less, though. The Indian Institute of Technology aspirant has just over a week left before the big day when he sits the IIT Joint Entrance Examination on April 8.
“Where’s the time to worry about this (stay on quota)'” said Sukhbir, who also has a rented room in Jia Sarai.
A couple of minutes was all he could spare. “Don’t mind, but there’s no time to fret,” he said, smiling weakly before he rushed back to a fat chemistry book.