Knowledge panel votes 6-2 against more quota
STUDENTS PROTESTING against Arjun Singh's quota proposal for OBCs in central higher-education institutions will like this. The National Knowledge Commission has dumped the HRD minister's proposal, with its eight members voting 6:2 against it. The commission said the reservations should not come at the cost of merit and it would make a case before the prime minister against the proposal.india Updated: May 09, 2006 01:36 IST
Commission chief Pitroda: Not at the cost of merit
STUDENTS PROTESTING against Arjun Singh's quota proposal for OBCs in central higher-education institutions will like this. The National Knowledge Commission has dumped the HRD minister's proposal, with its eight members voting 6:2 against it.
The commission said the reservations should not come at the cost of merit and it would make a case before the prime minister against the proposal.
Set up last year to advise the PM on how India can promote excellence in the education system to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st Century, the commission made its verdict public on Monday, favouring a status quo in the quota system. The commission's chairman, Sam Pitroda, told reporters: "Six of the eight members feel that until such time as we have explored new and more effective avenues of affirmative action, the status quo should be maintained and reservations should not be extended as proposed."
Pitroda said two members disagreed with this view. "Dr Jayati Ghosh supports the extension of reservations and Dr P.M. Bhargava supports the extension of reservations, subject to certain conditions," he said. Pitroda, Nandan Nilekani, Deepak Nayyar, Ashok Ganguly, Andre Beteille and Pratap Bhanu Mehta favoured a status quo.
"We'll be submitting the panel's views on the reservation issue to the PM for the consideration of the government. We're not against reservation per se, but it should not be at the cost of meritocracy," Pitroda said.
He said though the commission firmly believed a knowledge society must be socially inclusive, the inclusion must be reflected in educational institutions.
"Historically, we have used the instrument of reservation to achieve this goal.
For central institutions, this reservation is currently at 22.5 per cent for SCs
The panel felt that 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 commission said the solution for this difficult task should be compatible with the goals of a knowledge society.
"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," Pitroda said. "The priority should be to improve the quality of teaching, introduce new tools and technology and enhance the course-wise credit."
Bhargava said reservations could be extended to other sections of society such as OBCs, provided the government made a commitment to set up at least 4 lakh 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.