The Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party last week amended the constitution to make into law a proposal to allow a 10% quota, or reservation, in jobs and higher education to economically backward sections among the upper/dominant castes. India’s new education quota will cover non-Dalits, non-other Backward Classes and non-tribals — essentially, the upper castes or ‘forwards’.

Indian opposition parties have criticized India’s new education quota, calling it a politically motivated gimmick by the government aimed at winning upper caste votes in Lok Sabha polls. However, PM Modi has rejected all such allegations, saying the move had given opposition parties sleepless nights. The Centre has now directed all educational institutes and universities to implement the 10 percent quota from the next educational year. Indian Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar told a press conference on Sunday that an official intimation had been forwarded to higher education institutes to implement the quota in letter and spirit.

What The Quota Will Do?

Per India’s new education quota, 10% of places in all public and private colleges and universities across India will be reserved for the poor belonging to the upper castes, also known as the ‘general category’. Broadly, the quota would aid households whose annual earning is below Rs 0.8 million or who possess less than five acres of agriculture land.

The quota reservations will be in addition to the existing reservation of close to 50% for disadvantaged social groups like the ‘Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes’ in public educational institutes.

What is truly ground breaking in the 10% reservation is that it applies to public sector institutions as well, forcing private enterprises that make up almost 70% of the Indian higher education institutes to also reserve the 10% of the seats for upper castes.

As the new law takes effect, it is expected that close to 3.5 million additional seats will be created, or have to be created, in public and private universities and colleges. At least one million of these seats would have to be created in the very first year of the law’s implementation, government officials confirmed to media. India has almost 50,000 institutions, with 70% of these falling in the private sector.

For the law to take effect, most public and private institutes will have to increase their annual intakes. The current intake in top institutes like Indian Institutes of Technology have an existing intake of around 12,000, which will likely go up to around 15,000

Private Sector Unhappy

With huge implications of cost, many private sector institutions have taken the decision with a pinch of salt. And while public universities and colleges are set to get requisite funding for additional amenities and facilities from the government, there is no such provision in the news for private institutions.

Madhya Pradesh’s LNCT University Registrar Dr RK Chaurasia said that as the reservation was for students belonging to low-income families, “it must logically come with a fee waiver”. He said it was unclear what the modalities of implementing the quota in the private sector would be and if the government would provide financial support to private institutions to extend such fee waivers.

But the government faces another challenge. With the new quota extending to private institutes, analysts are predicting widespread calls from the other disadvantaged social groups like scheduled and backward castes for extending the general 50% quota for them in private institutions as well.

Makes sense. If Modi is so inclined to making education accessible for the upper castes, he should be looking at making backward castes equal participants in that accessibility.

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