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Delhi: Quota complexities

August 17, 2012

With the release of Delhi University’s first cut-offs list for admission into its 65 affiliated colleges offering 54,000 undergraduate seats on June 25, the stage is set for implementing the new rules for admission of OBC (other backward castes/classes) students who have a 27 percent reserved quota in all Central government-funded higher education institutions.
The new rules — framed by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik by its order of August 18, 2011 (P.V. Indiresan vs. Union of India) — stipulate that the cut-offs for OBC candidates can be 10 percent below the minimum eligibility criterion instead of 10 percent below the last cut-offs of general merit candidates. For example, admission into DU’s B.Com degree programme requires a minimum score of 45 percent (as in most other courses) in the best of four subjects (three subjects and one language). This year, the 10 percent relaxation will be given to OBC candidates on the minimum eligibility threshold of 45 percent unrelated to the cut-offs for merit quota applicants, which is 90-97 percent in most colleges.

This means all DU-affiliated colleges barring six minority institutions (which are exempted from reserving 27 percent seats for OBC candidates) are free to stipulate rock-bottom 40.5 percent (subtract 4.5 from 45) for OBC, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students against 80-84 percent cut-offs stipulated even by off-campus evening colleges such as Shyama Prasad Mukerji College for Women and Shyam Lal College. The expectation within DU is that under the new rules, all OBC quota seats (14,580) will be filled, avoiding the ‘wastage’ of last year when vacant seats in the reserved quota had to be transferred to general merit list candidates when all efforts to fill reserved positions failed.

Prof. I.S. Bakshi, principal of Dyal Singh College (estb. 1959) in which OBC quota seats remained vacant last year, is hopeful of filling them this year. “Under the new rules framed by the Supreme Court, it will be easier to fill up all quota seats because the 10 percent differential rule has been replaced by the 10 percent below minimum eligibility criterion which is much more generous,” says Bakshi.

In this connection, it’s pertinent to bear in mind that these rock-bottom cut-offs are also applicable to SC and ST Plus Two school-leavers, with the exception that OBC category seats if unfilled can be transferred to the general merit quota. However, under Delhi University rules, SC and ST seats are not transferable and if unfilled, go abegging. Admission into the 8,100 SC and ST undergraduate seats is fully supervised by DU’s special cell with affiliated colleges playing no role.

With the liberal new admission rules for reserved categories likely to fill up most classrooms, DU academics express fears about the cognitive and cultural divide within them. Hansraj College principal Prof. V.K. Kwatra fears that quota students entering top-ranked colleges won’t be able to keep up with merit students averaging 92-97 percent. “In a few programmes such as BA (economics) and B.Com (honours), students from reserved categories will find it difficult to cope because these study programmes are very demanding and competitive. Of course, we are planning to start remedial classes for reserved quota students but it will be a hard grind for them,” warns Kwatra.

What he leaves unsaid for reasons of political correctness is the widespread fear in DU and its affiliated colleges that with 49.5 percent of classes filled with reserved quota students, already low (by global norms) teaching-learning standards could plunge further.

Vimal Chander Joshi (Delhi)

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