The Veerappa Moily Oversight Committee’s recommendations in its interim report are, at the very least, ambitious. The report has mapped that an expenditure of Rs 20,000 crore is required over the next five years to equip central institutes of higher education to hike the number of seats and meet relevant requisites. All this in a bid to meet the HRD Minister’s target of upping the OBC, sc and st quota to 49.5 per cent by next year’s academic session. There’s no doubt that expansion and a qualitative upgrade of facilities and teachers are required, not only in higher education, but at the primary and secondary levels as well. Mr Moily has often stated that this giant exercise can catalyse India’s higher education into becoming a dynamic force. The highlights of the report include better salaries to attract and retain faculty and longer work hours to optimise utility of the facilities that the expansion envisages. These measures are required anyhow, even without the desire to, at one stroke, improve the lot of the OBCs, SCs and STs via the unreasonable quota route.
That said, the allocation that the committee suggests is far beyond (almost five-fold) the Plan outlay. In a nutshell, we have recommendations of substance whose implementation and delivery mechanisms are suspect, given that there is little inkling on how this kitty will be generated and from where the extra manpower will be sourced. Roping in the private sector can only take the expansion upto a point, concerned as private players will be on the qualitative aspect of its institutes, and witnessing as they are the dilution of autonomy in centres of excellence such as the IIMs, the IITs and AIIMS. The IIMs have spelt out the cost to quality to extend facilities. In fact, they have already announced a fee-hike — pre-empting the rush and ‘discounts’ that the imposition of quota will entail. Most institutes have stepped up faculty-recruitment activity. If the Centre decides to re-channel its outlay for primary and secondary education (the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has an impressive Rs 8,000 crore allocation), it will be a matter of cutting off the legs in order to provide wings.
The Moily committee has created the roadmap to take forward the Centre’s ill-conceived quota call. Whether it has the prescience or the wherewithal to give shape to its proposed reality is something that only time will tell. After all, the intention of such affirmative action must be to achieve, beyond success, significance.