Monday, 30th October 2017

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Education quota pledge

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  • Published 24.12.10

Calcutta, Dec. 23: The Bengal government today expectedly tabled the bill that would in effect hand a 10 per cent job quota to Bengal’s backward Muslims, while announcing a similar seat reservation in higher education institutions in phases starting next year.

Higher education minister Sudarshan Raychoudhury said the 17 per cent OBC seat quota — of which 10 per cent would go to Category A (most backward) which is dominated by Muslims — would be introduced in phases because of a seat shortage.

Five per cent quotas would be introduced for each of the two OBC categories, A and B, in the 2011-12 academic session that begins next June-July. The following year will see the implementation of five and two per cent quotas for Category A and Category B, respectively. A government notification will be issued soon, he said.

Raychoudhury said the state government had asked central regulatory bodies to allow an increase in higher education seats in Bengal so that the general category’s share did not fall.

The OBC job quota bill, which sets aside 10 per cent jobs for Category A and seven per cent for Category B, was today sent to the Assembly standing committee by Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim after its introduction.

Backward classes development minister Jogesh Burman later said this was routine procedure and should not be seen as a “political setback” for the government. CPM leaders expressed confidence that the bill, seen as a vote-catcher, would be passed in the pre-poll budget session.

Raychoudhury said the state had asked central regulatory bodies such as the Medical Council of India and the All India Council for Technical Education to allow an increase of seats in medical, engineering and other technical colleges in Bengal. If this is approved, “the total seats would increase for students of all social backgrounds”, he said.

However, existing central guidelines stipulate that seats should not be raised to facilitate admission quotas.

“I have spoken to the Union human resource minister to allow us to increase the number of seats in medical and engineering colleges and other institutions for three years before the final decision is taken by the respective central apex (regulatory) bodies. The law permits it and some central institutions have already done it,” Raychoudhury said.

He acknowledged that the reservation — whenever the law is passed — would not be binding on private educational institutions but added: “We will appeal to private institutions to emulate our affirmative action.”

Raychoudhury said the state government had been planning to introduce the OBC quota in higher education ever since the Centre enacted a law in 2006 facilitating such reservation in central educational institutions.

Neither the job quota bill nor Raychoudhury’s announcement about the education quota mentioned backward Muslims by name, but only cited the categories A and B.

The job quota will apply to government departments, corporations and PSUs as well as all educational institutions owned or funded by the state government. The state already has job reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Thirty-one per cent of seats are now reserved in Bengal’s educational institutions. The Scheduled Castes are entitled to 22 per cent, the Scheduled Tribes to six per cent and physically challenged students to three per cent.