Why is academia opposing new higher education roster?

Last Updated 08 February 2019, 14:53 IST

Hundreds of people staged a protest on Parliament Street on Thursday against the department-based roster system for faculty appointments at universities and colleges.

The Supreme Court on Jan. 22 upheld the Allahabad High Court's verdict in favour of department-wise reservation (13-point roster system) at universities ending the 200-point roster system.

The Supreme Court verdict has raised apprehensions that the new system will reduce the number of SC, ST and OBC faculty members at higher education institutions and effectively put an end to the reservation system.

When universities and colleges are considered as a unit for recruiting faculties, the total number of posts will be filled based on the reservation policy (SC - 15, ST - 7.5 and OBC - 27) at various departments. For example, if there are 200 posts in a college or university, 99 positions will be filled by the candidates from reserved categories and unreserved will get 101 posts.

The court observed that under this system, some departments have more faculty members from reserved categories, which is “violative of Article 14 [equality before the law] and Article 16 [equality of opportunity in matters of public employment] of the Constitution.”

The new roster system will drastically reduce the number of candidates from reserved categories since the departments as a combined unit would not have enough positions to accommodate the candidates based on the current reservation policy.

"Reservation or otherwise known as positive discrimination is a corrective mechanism for the historic injustice committed to the oppressed social groups of the Indian society who are socially and educationally backward," said Dr C Jerome Samraj, assistant professor of the Economics Department at Pondicherry University. "But, instead of understanding reservations as an empowering social justice mechanism, it is reduced merely as a proportional allocation of seats/positions to different social groups."

Based on number of positions

As per this system, the full implementation of reservation will happen only when there are 14 positions. Every fourth position will go to OBC while 7th and 13th positions will be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) categories respectively. The remaining positions will be filled by Unreserved (UR) or general category.

For example, if there are 14 positions available at a college department, the first three will be filled by unreserved (general) candidates, the fourth will go to OBC, fifth and sixth positions to general, seventh for SC, eighth for OBC, ninth, 10th, 11th again for general, 12th for OBC, 13th for ST and the 14th would go to SC.

"This mere statistical allocation defeats the very purpose of social justice, as both in the 200-point roster, and 13-point roster, it creates a situation of higher proportion for the General Category and is interpreted advantageously to allocate more seats to them," said Samraj, who is also president of the Pondicherry University SC/ST Employees Welfare Association.

Protest against 13-point roster system. (Credit: Twitter/@Tejaswi2406)
Protest against 13-point roster system. (Credit: Twitter/@Tejaswi2406)

This requires at least four positions in the department to have a candidate from the OBC category. If an SC candidate is to be admitted, they should have at least seven vacant positions. And for an ST candidate, the first post will be created only if the department has a size of at least 13 members.

It means that a department needs at least 13 faculty positions to ensure the full implementation of the reservation. This is unlikely to happen in practical terms as the maximum size of departments at colleges will not be more than seven and a department with a 14-member strength is rare.

When it comes to universities, this creates more of an issue as the posts will be divided based on the number of assistant professors, associate professors and professors. There should be four assistant or associate professors posts to accommodate an OBC faculty and the number of posts should go to seven and 13 to accommodate SC and ST candidates.

Exclusion of socially backward communities?

The department faculty size is varied and persons belonging to reserved categories will find it difficult to get employment at higher education institutions, which in turn will contribute to the close to zero representation of excluded communities like Dalits and Adivasis in academia.

According to Riya Singh, a research scholar in Ambedkar University, Delhi, the introduction of the 13-point roster will prevent the entrance of academicians from the lower strata of society. "Our voices, our work, our assertions already make us vulnerable to attacks. And this provision will further exclude us from being in teaching positions. Particularly if we see centres like women's studies where the number of faculties is extremely low, the reservation will not apply in such units," she said.

Samraj is demanding a rethink on the method of allocation to make the department-wise implementation of the 13-point roster fruitful. "Else, it is going to exclude the reserved categories and make institutions biased," said Samraj.

Vacant posts in government institutions

A recent Lok Sabha reply to BJP MP Dr Udit Raj showed that there are a large number of vacant posts reserved for the SC, ST categories that are yet to be filled at the various IITs. However, the Central Government has created an additional 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections from the general category.

Critics say that it's the BJP government's attempt to attract upper caste people to the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Although the new quota will not affect the existing reservation system, many from the reserved category communities see it as a plan to end reservation altogether.

Social justice based roster

Samraj said: "If we take the spirit of social justice, the priority of reservation should go to the most oppressed, and then move on to the next oppressed and then to the next oppressed. So, it should go to the general category only after ensuring the inclusion of all reserved categories. The proportion can only be a secondary consideration and it cannot determine the very method of sharing."

Samraj further pointed out Tamil Nadu state's roster system as the best, which, he said, "is known for its implementation of social justice."

Protest against 13-point roster

The University Grants Commission (UGC) had issued a circular last year to implement the Allahabad High Court order, but the body had to withdraw it after an uproar. Later, the UGC along with Ministry of Human Resource Development filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The apex court dismissed both appeals upholding the Allahabad High court verdict.

The Delhi University Teachers Association staged a candlelight march against this new system and demanded a return to the 200-point roster system. Those opposing the new system took to Twitter and social media Wednesday with hashtags like #BringBack200PointRoster and #Against13PointRoster.

On Thursday, approximately 8000 people participated in the protest march in Delhi against the 13-point roster. They demanded that the Central Government bring an ordinance to continue the 200-point roster. It was criticised as an ongoing anti-reservation policy of the Modi government

(Published 01 February 2019, 14:14 IST)

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