M A I N   N E W S

No relook at quota proposals: Arjun Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 14
Having reiterated his stand on the controversial issue of reservation for OBCs in higher education, Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh today chose to dismiss the ongoing protests over the issue as mere “propaganda”.

Refusing to “reconsider” the proposal of extending reservation, the minister, however, accepted that it was up to the Cabinet to decide the fate of the proposal, of which he remains a steadfast upholder.

The minister, who broke his silence on the issue, has even offered to speak to the protesting students, for whom he also had a word of advice.

Urging them to stay calm, Mr Arjun Singh asked students to show patience to resolve the issue, “as a one-sided decision could not resolve it”.

Mr Arjun Singh, addressing the media, put the ball in the Prime Minister’s court by announcing that the decision to put the proposal of extending reservation to OBCs before the Cabinet rests with him.

“As soon as the Prime Minister allows it (the proposal) to come in the Cabinet, a decision will be taken,” he said, referring to whether the Bill in this regard would come up in the ongoing session of Parliament.

Mr Arjun Singh had earlier dismissed reports that the Prime Minister was not “kept in the loop” as far as the decision of extending reservation to the OBCs was concerned.

He also came down heavily on the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) appointed by the Prime Minister for its views on reservation. Pointing out that the NKC was “not above the Constitution”, Mr Arjun Singh said he was not willing to talk to them.

“They do not need to speak to any of us. Let them decide and the country will follow them if they are above the Constitution,” he said in retaliation to the concerns expressed by the members of the NKC, led by its Chairperson Sam Pitroda.

The minister also dismissed the ongoing anti-reservation stir in country that is on the upswing as “propaganda”. He vehemently refused to acknowledge the protests as “Mandal II” and said, “there is a propaganda to blow up the whole issue, there is no Mandal I, II, III …we are not a banana republic”.

Trying to placate the angry student community, Mr Arjun Singh said he condemned the police action against students in various parts of the country. Beating students, he said, is no solution, instead there is a need to debate the issue, the minister said.

Refusing to accept that the opinion on the reservation issue stands divided, he said that the Lok Sabha was united on reserving seats for OBCs and no political party had expressed dissent so far. He, however, did mention that that if anyone wanted to change their stance, they were free to do so.

Pointing out that he had not drawn up any strategy to counter the opposition to the reservation, Mr Arjun Singh said there was a need for “understanding”.

“If there is no understanding in society, no strategy works. The issue can be resolved through talks,” he said, adding that violence or sloganeering would not resolve issues.

Meanwhile, Mr Arjun Singh’s offer to meet the agitating students has failed to mollify them. Sasmit Sarangi of the Youth for Equality said: “What will we get from meeting him? He has made his stance clear on the issue. When we first met him, he assured us that he will speak to the PM, now he has gone ahead and said that the Cabinet will decide, first he took refuge behind the EC’s code of conduct and now behind the Cabinet.”

He also criticised the minister for terming their protest as “propaganda”. “There is only one thing inciting us and that is Arjun Singh himself, and the government’s inflexible attitude towards reservation”.

The agitating students said that the hunger strike would continue and all hospital services in the Capital would remain suspended on Monday following the call for a medical bandh given by the IMA.

Services in most hospitals remained affected as resident doctors joined in the strike called by students. On Sunday, students and junior doctors in at least five Delhi hospitals began a hunger strike to register their protest over the police action against students.


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