In the coming Monsoon Session of Parliament, the United Progressive Alliance government will introduce a legislation paving the way for introducing 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes from the 2007 academic session in central education institutions.
To offset the impact on general students, the government has decided to increase the total number of seats by 27 per cent.
The nitty-gritty of how to implement the quota regime and increase the number of seats are now to be decided by the Oversight Committee, which the government constituted on Monday.
The terms of reference -- in layman's words, the brief -- of the Committee are:
- 'To identify in each of the institutions/universities, the courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level and student intake for the academic session 2007-08.
- 'To identify in each course, the total number of seats for OBCs and consequently to other categories.
- 'To identify for each course, the increase in the total number of seats so as to maintain the total availability of seats in the unreserved category.
- 'To determine the requirement of faculty and other infrastructure for the enhanced intake and to determine the additional requirement of recurring and non-recurring expenditure for the same.
- 'To suggest phasing of expenditure both recurring and non-recurring.
- 'To suggest measures, in short term, to be taken by each institute for the enhanced intake from the academic session 2007-08.
- 'To suggest any other preparatory or consequential steps and required to be taken in order to implement the policy of reservations.'
The Committee will submit its report by August 31.
Dr P M Bhargava, one of the two Knowledge Commission members who differed with the majority view of the apex knowledge body that reservation should not be extended, said enlarging our educational infrastructure was the best solution to end the quota system.
"The impact (of the quota regime and the increase in the number of seats) will be good for the further development of educational institutions in the country. Because when seats are increased, our institutes become large, more faculty members are appointed and more infrastructure is provided. It also leads to the admission of more students into good institutes," said Dr Bhargava.
He said it was difficult to put a cost that the government will have to spend on boosting the infrastructure and staff. "There is no dearth of funds with the government of India to spend for education in the country," he added.
Human resource development ministry officials say they have not worked out the complete cost factor. "But I am sure the initial cost of setting up more infrastructure will be anything between Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 million) and Rs 9,000 crore (Rs 90 million). That is our first rough estimate," a senior HRD ministry official told rediff.com
But how many seats are going to be increased, for example, at the Indian Institutes of Management?
If the seats are increased to compensate those set aside for the quota, 27 seats have to be added for every 100 seats in a central institute.
In the six IIMs across the country, this means an increase of nearly 400 seats. And for the Indian Institutes of Technology and other institutes like medical colleges where more numbers of students are admitted, the seat intake will be much higher.
Are the IIMs and IITs ready to absorb more seats? According to IIM-Ahmedabad Director Bakul Dholakia, the institute cannot take any more students under the present structure.
The number of seats in the two-year postgraduate management programme at IIM-A was increased from 180 in 2002 to 280 in 2003. Of the 280 seats, 30 were in the agri-business management course.
In 2006, the institute introduced a postgraduate management programme for executives and working professionals with 60 seats. In 2007, the institute plans to double the number of seats in the batch.
'Our plate is full. We have increased the seats across various programmes twice in just four years,' Dholakia told reporters.
Educationist Mohan Gopalan agreed that a mammoth task lies ahead. "The government says it will set up infrastructure and faculty facilities in accordance with the increase in seats by the next academic year. But do you think it is possible to construct new buildings and set up the huge educational infrastructure at such a short notice?" he asked.
Gopalan pointed out at the existing acute shortage of faculty in India's premier institutes like the IITs and the medical colleges.
"All these institutions are also struggling to get good people in research and development. The increase in seats will only destroy the excellence of these institutions," he said.