A new law extending caste-based quotas in government jobs and education to economically disadvantaged people of dominant castes, approved by India’s parliament this month, will shake up the higher education sector by reserving an additional 10% of seats – or an estimated additional 3.5 million places – for the new category.
The bill, extending affirmative action for the disadvantaged to all caste groups, became law on 12 January. It reserves 10% of places in public and private colleges and universities to the poor among the upper castes, also known as the ‘general category’.
This is on top of the existing reservation, of almost 50% of places under the Indian Constitution, for disadvantaged social groups or categories including the ‘Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes’ that currently apply to publicly funded institutions.
It is significant that the new 10% quota for the poorest will also apply to private institutions – around 70% of colleges and universities – which do not currently apply the existing 50% caste quotas, effectively opening up improved access for the poorest across the entire sector.
According to estimates, up to 3.5 million additional seats overall may have to be created across all universities and colleges, public and private, in order to implement the quota without cutting back on existing groups. Around one million of these would have to be created in the first year of implementation, government sources confirmed.
The 10% of seats are reserved only for a person whose family has a gross annual income below INR800,000 (approximately US$11,000), including income from all sources such as salaries, agriculture, business and professions.
The family is defined as: the person who seeks to benefit from the reservation, the parents, siblings under the age of 18, spouse and children under 18 years of age.
Creation of additional seats
India’s Human Resource Development Minister, Prakash Javadekar, said the new reservations will be applied to all higher education institutions – private and government-funded – from the new academic session starting in July 2019.
“We will create additional seats,” he said, without specifying the number of seats to be added.
India is home to some 50,000 institutions, 70% of them private, catering for more than 35 million students in higher education, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education 2017-18. Consequently, it is calculated that up to 3.5 million additional seats will be needed if the quotas are fully implemented.
Read more : Shuriah Niazi : University World News : 17 January 2019