M A I N   N E W S

Cabinet okays staggered quota
Students’ stir from today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 21
The Union Cabinet tonight cleared the politically sensitive legislation providing for 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in government-run higher educational institutions, including AIIMS, IIT and IIMs in a staggered manner. However, the Cabinet decided to keep the creamy layer amongst the OBCs out of the purview of quota.

Disappointed by the Cabinet’s decision, the Youth for Equality, which has been agitating for “merit” in higher educational institutions, threatened to launch a stir from tomorrow to protest against this decision. Dr Anil Sharma, spokesperson for YFE, said the government was adopting a confrontations approach and ‘‘we are forced to launch the stir’’.

The Bill is expected to be tabled on August 25, the last day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament and is likely to be referred to the Standing Committee.

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Information and Broadcasting Minister P.R Dasmunsi told reporters.

The Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister which lasted for nearly three hours, took the decision of staggered implementation of the quota considering economic viability and rejected the political pressures mounted by the DMK and the Left allies of its implementation at one go.

The quota Bill would, however, keep the creamy layer out of the purview of the reservation. However, it is not yet clear, how the government would choose to do so. It is learnt that the government might keep the various Supreme Court decisions in coming out with a criteria of defining the creamy layer within the OBCs.

The meeting comes in the wake of mounting demands from UPA allies, particularly from the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) in Tamil Nadu and a tiff last week between PMK Chief Dr S. Ramadoss and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The quota will be introduced in a phased manner for the next three years, five per cent in the first year, 10 per cent in the second year and then the rest. The quota will only be introduced in government-aided institutes and private and non-funded organisations will be approached later.

The draft Bill has been prepared on the basis of the recommendations of an Oversight Committee headed by former Karnataka Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily.

The draft Bill covers institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM). It aims to implement the OBC quota in these institutions from the next academic session in a staggered manner.

The oversight committee in its interim report presented to the Prime Minister recently gave strong indications that the implementation could be done in phases in view of certain issues and constraints like time-frame expressed by the elite institutions for implementing quotas and the possibility of sudden expansion of seats “leading to loss of merit and excellence.” The committee is expected to submit its final report by August 31.

It had estimated that the quota implementation in a phased manner could cost the exchequer Rs 20,000 crore.

The Cabinet decision caps a bitter controversy triggered six months ago by HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s statement on reservation in these institutions that sparked agitation by medicos in the Capital and elsewhere.

Today’s decision marks a new phase in affirmative actions for Backward Castes and SC and ST after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report for job reservation in early 1990s.

The issue gained centrestage late last year after the Supreme Court judgment striking down reservation in unaided educational institutions, which raised a storm of protests with leaders cutting across party lines favouring a constitutional amendment to nullify the apex court order.




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