Cabinet divided over controversial Act

A section of senior Cabinet ministers have expressed serious concerns over implications of the government’s move to implement the controversial 2006 legislation for admission to professional courses. 

In a meeting of the State Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday, Horticulture Minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Minority Welfare Minister Qamarul Islam said people, especially students and parents, were under the impression that the government was acting in favour of private college managements. The issue was raised by senior minister H K Patil, who explained negative impact of the act on meritorious middle-class and poor students. 

People are afraid that the legislation would go against the interest of the poor and meritorious students. The controversy would dent the government’s image. Hence, an appropriate decision should be taken to allay the fears, the ministers said. 

Several Cabinet ministers were of a similar opinion. However, ministers V Srinivas Prasad and H C Mahadevappa, both from the scheduled castes, favoured implementation of the Act as it gives 50 pc reservation to SC/STs, which was being denied for the last seven years. 

Minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa, who runs a chain of educational institutions, reportedly told the chief minister that he was being misguided by a couple of ministers. Even Law Minister T B Jayachandra said there was no need to rush through the implementation of the act. 

When contacted by Deccan Herald, Shamanur said: “I am not opposing the act. But if the government is admitting students through reservation quota, then fees to be fixed by the management should be paid.” 

Union Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily had recently said the new law would “do away with social justice” as there would not be uniformity in fees. Hence, the old CET format should be restored.

Siddaramaiah is learnt to have said the issue would be discussed with Higher Education Minister R V Deshpande and Minister of State for Medical Education Sharan Prakash Patil. He also promised to take necessary steps and convene a meeting on Friday. He is scheduled to hold the meeting around 3 pm. 

While Patil on Thursday said the government was in favour of implementing the 2006 Act, Deshpande did not reveal his exact stand. 

“The Act was implemented when the JD (S)-BJP combination was in power in 2006. There was a demand for transparency in admission and fee structure. Hence, the Act came into being. I am of the firm opinion that the younger generation, which is asset of this nation, should get their choice of subjects to learn. They should get both quality as well as affordable education. In tomorrow’s meeting we will discuss the pros and cons of the act. I have an open mind on the issue,” Deshpande told Deccan Herald.

The minister said under the 2006 Act, seats available for general merit students would be about 42.5 pc of the total engineering seats as against the present 22.5 per cent. The SC/ST/OBCs from Karnataka will get 50 per cent reservation. But questions are being asked whether the fees would be affordable. 

“The NRI quota will be 7.5 per cent in private colleges. Let us see whether cross-subsidy will be able to help. Anyhow, the Cabinet will take the final decision,” he added. 

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