Quota Would Have No Exemption

Posted In India, Thoughtworks - By NitiN Kumar Jain On Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 With 0 Comments

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There will be no exemptions from the quota regime, with the Centre buckling under protests from dalit groups and dropping contentious provisions from a proposed law which sought to restrict job reservations only to entry-level posts in IIMs, IITs and scientific organisations.

The law, giving a statutory form to what have been executive orders governing quotas, was slammed by dalit groups across party and professional lines for “surreptitiously” shrinking the resevation ambit. Parliamentary affairs minister Vayalar Ravi on Thursday assured Parliament that ‘The SC/ST (Reservation in Posts and Services) Bill, 2008’, would be amended as UPA insiders felt the controversy could be politically damaging ahead of elections.

Now, clause 4 of the bill dealing with “no quota posts” will be dropped while the term “desireable” from clause 9(1) will also be deleted. This will mean that standards for entry to various levels would not be open to discretion of authorities. Also, the quantum of reservation will be specified — 15% for SCs and 7.5% for STs.

The implications are significant as the viewpoints of interest groups have been catered to. Politically as well, Congress seems to have reacted to the possibility of a powerful force like BSP making this a poll weapon, something the ruling party is wary of. BSP protested against the bill on Thursday.

An amended bill will now apply quota to all positions in elite educational institutions and even science hubs. A schedule in the bill, now to be dropped, had exempted 47 institutions including IITs, IIMs, BHU, AMU and AIIMS.
Clause 4 of the bill sought to restrict job quota to “lowest grade of Group A post” — Assistant Professor level. It meant that vacancies for higher posts, unlike the current practice, would not have quota for SCs and STs.

The restriction was also applicable to “scientific or technical” posts.

An amended bill is seen by dalit groups as a major gain from the current reservation policy. They claim that central governments are generally reluctant to give reservation in “scientific” posts till now, but absence of a specific bar on these posts in a law would open it to legal challenge. It is thus seen as an extension of the quota frontier in a way.

Further, the proposed law would open quota in short-term appointments as also in emergency relief work. With the dropping of the clause to the contrary, these jobs would be open for reservation, or at least seen to be so.

The key feature of the amendment is the deletion of ‘desirable’ from the clause dealing with relaxation of standards to fill the quota seats in the absence of suitable candidates.

The bill said the relaxation of eligibility criteria would not apply to “essential and desirable qualifications”. The dalit groups have protested that the word ‘desirable’ has no definition and was open to discretion of the authorities and could be used as a discriminatory tool.