M A I N   N E W S

PM to consult parties on quota issue
Policy to ‘‘accommodate’’ all, says Arjun Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 16
As the stir against reservation spread across the country like wild fire, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to consult political parties from tomorrow to deal with the issue lest the student protests get out of control.

The consultations by Mr Manmohan Singh come a day ahead of the Cabinet meeting convened to deliberate on the reservation issue.

Sources said the Prime Minister would be talking to political parties to see that the reservation proposals were implemented without any confrontation in society.

The government has been considering the proposal of increasing the number of seats in higher educational institutions, which would meet the apprehensions of the agitating students, they said.

As the infrastructure to meet the demand of increased seats would take some time, the government, sources pointed out, would draw out a plan of three-phased implementation of the reservation.

However, they added that the government was unlikely to come out with any time frame for the implementation of each phase at this juncture.

Sources pointed out that the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs took stock of the situation and the issues and concerns raised by agitating students and medical doctors and engineers across the country.

The CCPA also deliberated on ways and means to go ahead with the reservation following the passage of the Constitution Amendment by Parliament.

Incidentally, there is a provision for 10 per cent hike in seats every year under the 10th five-year plan.

‘‘Going by the funds sanctioned to colleges and universities, we have a provision for 10 per cent increase annually in all educational institutions,’’ UGC Chairperson Sukhdev Thorat told reporters here.

The issue of reservation would come up in Parliament again tomorrow with the PMK member, Prof Ramdas, giving notice for a calling attention motion. This would again corner the government.

Earlier in the day, Union Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh informed the Lok Sabha that the UPA government would come up with a comprehensive road map for implementing the reservation policy after considering various objections and suggestions made in the wake of mounting protests by the student community. He said the government was ‘‘not unmindful’’ of concerns expressed by agitating students against reservations in elite educational institutions and that it was seriously considering all options that will also satisfy them. However, he made it clear during question hour that the government was committed to implementing the proposal on reservations and no timeframe could be given as it was considering a number of suggestions. ‘‘I would like to assure the Lok Sabha that we are concerned about this issue. And it is not as if we are unmindful of the fact that a section of the people or the students feel that something is being taken away from them. I would like to dispel that impression. We are very seriously considering all options that could give help to those sections of the people or the community who have at the moment acquired a certain stake in the entire thing,’’ he said replying to supplementaries.

Stating that the reservation was a commitment of Parliament, which had passed the 93rd Constitution Amendment Bill for the purpose in December 2005, and was ‘‘irrevocable’’, Mr Arjun Singh said a proposal to implement this was being considered in tandem with other provisions of the law.

Mr Arjun Singh said ‘‘canards’’ were being spread by certain sections that he was pushing it as his personal agenda. He also strongly disapproved of the use of force by police saying ‘‘force should not have been used on the students. They have a right to make their demands in a peaceful manner.”

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