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Mandal-II is being fought in cyberia

STRIKING A defiant note, HRD Minister Arjun Singh has denied the Election Commission's charge that he violated the model code of conduct for elections by announcing the plan for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in centrally-funded higher-education institutes. He said the talk of another Mandal-type reservation -- first reported in the Hindustan Times -- was not new. Also, the government had not decided on the percentage of reservation.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 00:38 IST

STRIKING A defiant note, HRD Minister Arjun Singh has denied the Election Commission's charge that he violated the model code of conduct for elections by announcing the plan for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in centrally-funded higher-education institutes. He said the talk of another Mandal-type reservation -- first reported in the Hindustan Times -- was not new. Also, the government had not decided on the percentage of reservation. He said the draft bill proposing the quota had been approved by the HRD Ministry following an amendment to the Constitution.

On Saturday, the EC had sent a notice to Cabinet Secretariat, seeking explanation for the quota announcement. The EC termed the announcement a breach of the model code of conduct as it gave concessions to certain sections of the electorate in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Pondicherry.

In his reply, Singh said, "There was no announcement of any concession, much less any other breach of the model code of conduct. There is no basis even for prima facie view to that effect."

The minister said the EC's notice, on the basis of media reports, was "unfortunate". Taking a dig at the commission, he said, "What is more, it has also been concluded that it prima facie violates the Model Code of Conduct without mentioning which provision of the model code of conduct the commission had in view."

Quoting two media reports in his defence, the minister said in a reply to a specific question he had said the decision would be taken and announced only after elections to the five states assemblies were over.

Singh said Article 15(5) of the Constitution, after the 104th amendment enhancing the reservation, came into force on January 20 this year when it received the president's assent.
He denied that on or before or after April 6 he had made any announcement in respect of percentage of reservation in favour of any sections of the society or said anything on the matter which was not in the public domain.

On the Mandal Commission, Singh quoted his speech in the Lok Sabha on December where he said "every single advantage that has accrued to the country after the Mandal Commission, shall accrue to the country after the bill is passed, in terms of admission and in terms of advantages which the backward classes should get".

The Centre is expected to introduce a law on reservation for OBCs in all central government educational institutions, including schools, in the coming Parliament session (commencing from May 10).

The draft bill approved by the HRD Ministry and Law Ministry on March 27 was before the cabinet for its consideration, said Singh.

Global India logs in, blogs  

ANURADHA Mukherjee
IF THE student movement against Mandal-I was played out on the roads, this time it is going to take place in cyberspace.

While the roads remain quiet, the traffic on the Internet against the quota proposal is building up every moment. Just log onto the Net and run a search titled "OBC reservation + Blogs" and you come up with a surfeit of angry comments, petitions (to the prime minister, president, HRD minister) and signature campaigns.

For today's tech-savvy generation, the logic seems to be simple: if you can reach a large number of people across continents, often simultaneously and at the speed of light, why sweat it out needlessly.

At petitiononline.com, over 20,000 signatures have been collected from Indians worldwide against Arjun Singh's proposal to introduce 27 per cent of reservation for OBCs in centrally-funded higher-education institutions. The petitions are addressed to the PM and the president.

Pranav Garg, member of a students' group floated recently by the NGO People's Action in reaction to the HRD minister's quota announcement, says: "Student today are practical and media savvy. We know what measures to adopt to make our voices heard.”

"Students may stay away from a march but clicking a mouse to register one's opinion is easy."

One of the first things the group did was to float a blog for spreading the message of protest. "Students are hooked to the internet. It's an easy of way reaching minds," says another member.

The group is planning to petition the president and PM on the matter and network with students in other metros against the proposal.
Many students have expressed their anger at online forums like the one hosted by rediff.com.

Reactions range from the suggestion by one Shibaji to introduce "50 per cent reservation in the cabinet" to the observation by blogger Rashmi Bansal on youthcurry.blogspot.com that "there is no point in relaxing norms for entry to the extent that you create a new kind of caste system within an IIT or IIM".