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NKC for status quo

The panel said a better way to achieve social justice was to bring the changes right from the primary school level.

india Updated: May 09, 2006 12:00 IST

The National Knowledge Commission (NKC), set up by the prime minister, has favoured maintaining status quo on quotas for weaker sections of the society in central educational institutions.

Six of the eight members on the panel felt that status quo should be maintained and reservations should not be extended till more effective avenues of affirmative action were put in place, commission chairman Sam Pitroda told reporters.

"Two other members, who disagreed with the majority view, favoured extending reservations, and one of them supported it with certain conditions," Pitroda said.

Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh had last month proposed to extend the reservation policy to include other backward classes (OBCs), a move that was met with nationwide protests from students.

The six members of the panel who were in favour of status quo are Pitroda, Nandan Nilekani, Deepak Nayyar, Ashok Ganguly, Andre Beteille and Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

The two members who expressed dissent on the issue were Jayati Ghosh and Puspa Bhargava.

Ghosh supported the extension of quotas as proposed by the government, while Bhargava favoured its implementation subject to certain conditions.

In a statement, Pitroda said that though the NKC firmly believed that a knowledge society must be socially inclusive, the inclusion must be reflected in educational institutions.

"Historically, we have used the instrument of reservations to achieve this goal. For central institutions, this reservation is currently at 22.5 per cent for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes," Pitroda said.

The panel felt that the 21st century provided a historic opportunity to craft effective policies to make educational institutions more socially inclusive.

Admitting that the reservation issue required more social debate and careful thought, the panel said that the solution for such a difficult task should be compatible with the goals of a knowledge society.

"We will be submitting the panel's views on the reservation issue to the prime minister for the consideration of the government. We are not against reservation, but it should not be at the cost of meritocracy.

"While the debate on the pros and cons of reservation should go on, the better way to achieve social justice is to expand the capacity right from the primary school to higher education and professional courses.

"The priority should be to improve the quality of teaching, introduce new tools and technology and enhance the course-wise credit," Pitroda said.

On the opening up of the education sector, Pitroda said that the government should not only encourage greater private participation, but also permit foreign institutions and overseas investments under a regulatory framework to supervise and monitor their operations.

Giving a historical perspective, Bhargava said that reservation could be extended to other sections of society such as OBCs, provided that the government made a commitment to set up about 4,00,000 primary and secondary schools.

"At the same time, the government should commit to abolish the reservation system after a specific time and not extend it as in the past," he said.