‘8% students’ struggle for a better future

Education, A distant dream

Teachers from Hyderabad Karnataka Primary and High School Guest Teachers Union stage a protest pressing various demands at the mini Vidhana Soudhain Kalaburagi. DH Photo/ Prashanth HG

Yatheendra Kulkarni (name changed), a general category student in Chincholi taluk in Kalaburagi district, realised how hurtful discrimination was within the first four weeks of joining an MSc course in a reputed university in South Karnataka in 2015. 

“A majority of my classmates were local students, and they, including my teachers and at times administration staff, left no opportunity to make me realise how ‘privileged’ I was, just because I was an ‘8% student’,” he said.

Yatheendra, who eventually completed his MSc and now works as a Physics lecturer in a private PU college in Dharwad, was referring to 8% reservation in education and jobs available across the state under Article 371(J) for those born in the six most backward districts of the state, constituting the Kalyana Karnataka region.

The ‘8%’ term is also used as a pejorative to refer to those belonging to the Kalyana Karnataka (KK) region (previously known as the Hyderabad-Karnataka region) who migrate to the rest of Karnataka to pursue higher education due to limited opportunities available in the region.

Except for the common entrance test (CET), where the seat matrices are computerised and announced well in advance, getting a seat in colleges outside the KK region is a Herculean task. Many of the universities do not even release the seat matrix online and in the end, announce that all the ‘reserved’ seats are filled through due process, say experts.

Pavan, an MSc Zoology student at Bengaluru University and a native of Siruguppa taluk in Ballari district, had to battle with the university officials who had given the KK quota seat to a student from Bengaluru for a higher fee, citing it as management quota.

“I was monitoring the website of the university for release of seat matrix everyday. However, one day, they announced that all the seats for the course have been filled. When I enquired, they said that they had given our quota seat to other students,” he said and added that many of his friends had faced a similar problem in other streams as well. The students also claimed that they were given a sub-standard hostel facility in the university.

To make things worse, some of the established private colleges moved the High Court demanding they be exempt from reserving 8% seats to KK region students. Although the court upheld implementation of the reservation, experts say colleges are still not abiding by the rules.

READ: Broken promises: No end to Kalyana Karnataka's struggle​

Within the six districts of the region, inhabitants have as much as 80% reservation but limited educational apparatus and inefficiencies make it inoperable.

“There would have been no need for students from this region to go that far for higher studies had there been better facilities in the six districts,” explains Pandith Chidri, President, Hyderabad Karnataka Horata Samiti, Bidar. 

However, “The 8% reservation has made a sea of changes in the lives of students as 3,486 got an opportunity to study medicine in the last five years and similarly, 31,875 got engineering seats across the state under Article 371 (J) reservation,” said Sangeeta Kattimani, an economic lecturer in Kalaburagi.

She has been coordinating CET counselling since 2013 in Kalaburagi. According to her, before article 371(J) was implemented, only 150-160 students from the six districts used to get merit seats in medical colleges across the state now it has almost reached 800 seats a year.

Hard to get

For students, getting their domicile certificate (locally called Article 371 (J) certificate) to avail benefits of reservation remains a hurdle.

According to locals, without bribing officials, especially in rural areas, it is impossible to get the certificate.

Shankar Nag, 38, a resident of Hallikeri village in Humnabad taluk of Bidar district lost at least four opportunities to get a government job as he could not get the certificate in time.

“The officials at Nada Kacheri made me run from pillar to post several times, demanding one certificate after another. By the time I produced all the required documents, I was no longer eligible for a government job as I had crossed the age limit,” he said.

Prof Razak Ustaad of Raichur, says the Kalyana Karnataka residents have to produce only one of the 20 proofs prescribed by the government to show that they have been residents of the region for over 10 years.

However, a majority of the officials are not aware of this and seek multiple documents. At times, they even stress on having an affidavit as evidence. Since several signing authorities posts are vacant, the issuing of certificates is getting delayed as well.

 

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