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Peace formula: Staggered quota

FACED WITH stiff opposition, especially from the medical students, the government in all likelihood may implement the OBC quota proposal in a staggered manner.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 12:59 IST

FACED WITH stiff opposition, especially from the medical students, the government in all likelihood may implement the OBC quota proposal in a staggered manner.

A panel comprising Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Arjun Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is reportedly working on a package for phased implementation of OBC quota in central institutions. The objective is to cushion the impact of reservation on other sections of society.

Sources said on Monday consultations between the three ministers would run parallel to the PM's talks with political parties, which starts Wednesday. The PM will seek inputs for a formula that will take care of the concerns of both parties -- for and against the quota.

The panel is expected to forward the package over the next two or three days for the consideration of the PM and the approval of the Cabinet. "The purpose is to avoid any confrontation and reach a compromise to defuse any volatile situation," said a source.

The phased programme seems realistic as an increase in the number of seats will be difficult to achieve in one go, given the infrastructure requirements for it. The medical students and junior doctors, who are continuing with their agitation, too are not convinced that increasing seats is possible. "If you increase seats, you have to increase the number of beds, patient intake and hospital facilities," said Abhishek Bansal, a student of MAMC.

Even the students' intake in higher-education institutions, including those managed by the Centre, has shown an increase of only 23.4 per cent in the past five years.

These statistics indicate the problems the Centre and state governments can encounter in implementing the promised 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in a single stroke.

The UGC, which is falling way short of the 10 per cent enrolment target in the Tenth Plan, also does not have much hope to offer on enforcing the OBC quota in one go. “We’ve not received any communication from the HRD ministry,” UGC chairperson S.K. Thorat said on Tuesday. His comments only confirmed the government’s move to carry out the reservations in a phased manner.

That the Centre and the state governments require time and resources to build infrastructure and hire teaching faculties is also borne out by the magnitude of the task at hand. In the central institutions alone, the quota will mean an increase of 22,000 seats. The corresponding country-wide figure stands at 10 lakh, including those in private institutions which the Constitutional amendment has brought within the ambit of reservations.

In simple terms, if the existing 78 general seats out of total 100 have to be retained in Delhi University, about 43 additional seats will have to be created to offset the impact of reservation.

Sources agreed that a staggered implementation of quota would help in dealing with the problem to find faculty to teach the additional students. Currently, the IITs are facing a 25-30 per cent shortage of teachers.