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Cabinet panel discusses reservation issue

The 4-member committee discussed how to implement the quota system in a balanced manner.

india Updated: May 18, 2006 16:37 IST

A four-member ministerial team set up to examine the issue of reservation in institutions of higher education met for the first time on Thursday as nationwide protests over the matter continued for the sixth day.

The panel consisting of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Law and Justice Minister HR Bharadwaj, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh discussed how to implement the quota system in a balanced manner, officials said.

The 93rd amendment to the constitution - which came into effect on January 20 - wants 27 per cent quota for other backward classes (OBCs) in institutions of higher education.

Among the issues the committee discussed were a phased implementation programme on quotas and ways to increase the number of seats in educational institutions to moderate the effect of reservation, officials said.

But some premier educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institutes of Technology are said to be opposed to any arbitrary increase in seats at the cost of a fall in standards.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss were also among those who attended Thursday's meeting, although they were not part of the four-member panel constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, agitating medical students, interns and residents met Leader of the Opposition and Bharatiya Janata Party veteran LK Advani and submitted a memorandum opposing the proposed quota system.

They also demanded a judicial commission to thoroughly review the entire process of affirmative action in the country. Advani, however, made no commitment.

Protest marches and indefinite hunger strike by doctors also continued here Thursday as the talks between the protesters and Oscar Fernandes, minister without portfolio and government's point person for consultations, remained indecisive a day earlier.

The human resource development minister has said that the government wished to take everyone along in implementing the constitution amendment, adding there was no question, however, of withdrawing from that commitment.