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Playing HRD ball

india Updated: Apr 23, 2007 00:04 IST

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As the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry mumbles on about its idea of propagating social justice in educational institutions, it is now the turn of the students of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) to suffer. In its latest bid to play dog in the manger, the HRD Ministry has directed the IIMs to put on hold all admissions until the Supreme Court “decides on the issue” of setting aside 27 per cent of the seats in the institutions for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Apart from the fundamental flaw in implementing such a quota plan, the current back-and-forth routine being enacted between the government and the Supreme Court puts the future of thousands of talented youngsters in limbo. This is a state that the HRD Ministry may find comfortable to be in, but to place an ideological theory — and a flawed one, at that — above the educational and career curves of some of the finest youth in the country is being a State-sanctioned obstructionist.

We have, in the past, gone into the basic problems of implementing a 27 per cent reservation scheme at institutions of higher education like the IIMs. Not only does the government have no clear idea of the number of OBCs in the country — a point raised by the apex court that led to its objection to the government’s latest reservation policy — but to set aside seats along community lines at this level of education, instead of providing policies and schemes to beef up universal primary and tertiary education, is to do nothing except play to separate galleries. And just in case, we had left out this point the last time we opposed reservations, providing quotas to castes or communities without any time frame in mind simply accentuates the very divisions that education and its accompanying tools are trying to obliterate. But we guess that the HRD Ministry and its politically-antennaed mandarins already know all this.

The IIM authorities had announced last fortnight that they would not be able to defer the admission process after April 21 “as per last year’s capacity”. The government’s heavy breaths on their collars have pushed this ‘deadline’ back again. There is a serious danger now that a batch of IIM aspirants will be left out of the annual admission loop that could have a domino effect on their future prospects — not to mention the fate of those who will be blocked from being admitted in other institutions. But then, this is probably not a serious issue for the government. It has social justice, that oh-so-tangible entity, to think about.