Quota: disrupting education for votes

School girls appear in a TBSE's intermediate exams at an examination center in Agartala. PTI

The Modi government’s decision to mandate 10% quota for economically weaker sections in institutions of higher learning will be beset with legal and practical problems. If at all it is implemented in some manner, it will deal a serious blow to higher education in the country. The government wants the new quota rule to be implemented in the country’s 900 universities and 40,000 colleges from the next academic year. Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has announced that the government would bring forward a legislation to implement the proposal in the next session of parliament so that the legal hurdles are removed and reluctant or unwilling institutions are forced to abide by the mandate. All institutions, including centrally-funded ones, public universities and aided and unaided private colleges and universities will have to fall in line. This will have the effect of disrupting and destabilising the entire sector.

The government has proposed a 25% increase in the intake of students so that the quota will not upset the system. This will pose a serious challenge because the institutions will have to create more space, enhance facilities like laboratories and libraries, build more infrastructure of various kinds, augment staff strength and above all raise resources for all this. Most institutions are already challenged in all these respects. The enhancements will have to be done in the next few months. All the institutions, except perhaps central universities, will have to add seats and expand facilities to accommodate the new quota without any additional income. This will force them to raise the fees being paid by general quota students. Even when all this is done and the existing system is put under severe strain, it is a moot point whether students belonging to the weaker sections, defined as those from a family with an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh, will actually gain much. 

The higher education system in the country is inefficient and problem-ridden and has poor standards. There is no institution of high excellence and world standards in the country, though it has the largest student population in the world. Most of our graduates are unemployable. This dire situation will only get worse with the government’s new move. There is no reason for this love of quota except as a talking point for the government in the coming elections. That explains the hurry, too. But the move aimed at short-term electoral gains will do long-term damage to the country’s education sector. However, even with the new legislation proposed by the government, the legality of the move may be in doubt, especially in the case of private unaided institutions.

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Quota: disrupting education for votes

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