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Arjun loses quota portfolio to Moily

The draft Bill will be examined carefully before its introduction in House, report Chetan Chauhan & Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 17:16 IST

Oversight Committee chairman M Veerappa Moily will have a decisive say in the OBC quota proposal for central higher-education institutions — and not HRD Minister Arjun Singh, whose initial announcement had led to the anti-quota agitation and put the Government on the defensive.

The proposed legislation on 27 per cent reservation for OBCs will now be routed through the Oversight panel before it is taken up by the Cabinet and introduced in July-August in the monsoon session of Parliament.

Moily has conveyed to the HRD Ministry that the draft legislation should be finalised only after the panel discusses the Bill thoroughly, holds wider consultations with the people and submits to the Government its interim report (in July), including recommendations on what the legislation should be like. The HRD Ministry has reportedly agreed to this.

Moily told HT that the draft would be discussed whenever it came before the panel. “It’ll not be proper for me to comment on the issue now,” he said to questions, leaving the issue of the creamy layer to be addressed by the panel. But he was keen that the committee’s recommendations address the concerns of all sections.

In effect, this means the Oversight Committee’s proposals on the Bill could be different from that of the ministry’s, which seems to have rushed in with the draft without doing enough homework on it or taking a public feedback. The lack of homework is evident from the fact that on queries from the Supreme Court, the Government is now trying to put together the material on the basis of which the ministry decided on the 27 per cent quota for OBC.

Arjun Singh may be right in claiming that he was only giving effect to the 93rd Constitutional amendment which promised reservations for socially and educationally backward classes in educational institutions. But the manner in which it was brought into the public domain put the Government in a spot as anti-quota protesters refused to heed the PM's appeal to call off their agitation and the Congress president maintained silence on the subject.

Shortly after Arjun Singh's announcement, the issue was systematically taken out of the purview of the HRD Ministry. It was handed over to Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs in mid-May. A three-member GoM was set up to explore mechanisms to address the interests of all sections, including the OBCs and the anti-reservationists.

In line with the GoM's recommendations, the Government constituted the 13-member Oversight Committee and four sub-groups to go into the phase-wise implementation of the quota regime without hurting the general category.

The Oversight panel, which is expected to submit its final report on August 31, will hand in its interim report in July so that the Government can bring in the monsoon session the reservation Bill that addresses the panel's views as well.

As part of the exercise of trying to generate a national consensus on the draft, the panel proposes to hold a colloquium in the first week of July and is seeking comments from public to broadbase its recommendations. "The Bill will be discussed in the colloquium," an official said.

HRD ministry sources, however, said the draft Bill, which covers all central educational institutions and deemed universities, does not give any time limit for enforcing entire 27 per cent reservation. The Bill also speaks about a differential admission system and fee structure for OBC students, similar to one for SCs and STs.