'Quota decision has Sonia's seal of approval'
In a placatory gesture to the anti-reservationists, Mr Singh said it might take 2-3 yrs to neutralise the reduction of seats in the non-reserved category.india Updated: May 28, 2006 19:18 IST
Rejecting allegations that he was doing hard politics from a soft ministry, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said the decision for reservation in higher educational institutions was not his personal agenda but it had the endorsement of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government.
"I am bothered neither about the bouquets nor about the brickbats on the reservation issue which is aimed at ensuring social justice," Mr Singh told a private news channel.
Ruling out any dilution of the initiative, Mr Singh said his ministry had already initiated steps in the direction and would be in communication with the Union Cabinet by June 3-4 while the Oversight Committee on increasing the quantum of seats would be submitting its report by August 31.
In an obvious snub to the agitating medicos, the minister said the opponents of the bill should see reason rather than harping on their own perception of the issue.
Describing the decision as pragmatic rather than political, Mr Singh said it was meant for the empowerment of the downtrodden rather than that of a political party as there was a total consensus among political parties on the issue.
Mr Singh emphatically ruled out a staggered implementation of the reservation, saying it was a fait accompli and would be effective from the next academic session.
In reply to a query, Mr Singh said bill for the enabling legislation for the implementation of the reservation quota would be brought in the monsoon session of Parliament.
Asked whether the country's elite institutions were competent enough to cope up with the proposed 54 per cent hike in seats to maintain the existing percentage of seats for the general category, he said a number of proposals were being discussed to build up the infrastructure.
The proposals, inter alia, include raising the retirement age of the faculty members from 62 to 65 years.
He minced no words to clarify that the 27 per cent quota for the OBCs would not be sliced even after the increase in the seats.
About the reservations in the private unaided institutions, Mr Singh said the state governments should come out with matching enactments as a Central Law could not be put in place.
Refusing to subscribe to the suggestion that it was a retrograde step at a time India was making its global presence, the minister said no decision should be taken by overlooking the ground realities, which still depict a dismal picture of the backward sections.
In the same vein, he recalled the high-profile 'India Shining campaign' of the previous NDA regime, which fell flat on the AB Vajpayee government's face.
In a placatory gesture to the anti-reservationists, Mr Singh said it might take 2-3 years to neutralise the reduction of seats in the non-reserved category, but there would be no reduction in the 27 per cent reservation for the OBCs.
Mr Singh refused to comment on the statement of Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda and some of his members, who had voiced opposition to the quota move.
"I have my opinion on the issue but it will not be plausible to make any comment on it right now," was his cryptic reply.
About the need to skim off the creamy layer of the OBCs from the reservation benefits, he said it was an important but controversial issue. "Some courts have already given their rulings on it and the issue can be deliberated."
To a query whether reservation benefits should be extended to the poor among the forward castes, he replied in a lighter vein, "Lalu Prasad Ji has already given his suggestions in this regard."
Mr Prasad has suggested that reservation benefits should be extended to 5-10 per cent to the poor among the higher castes.
Asked about some Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) opening their branches in foreign countries, the HRD minister said the charters of these institutes did not have any such provision.