The new reservation formula for appointment of faculty members at the universities has raised a storm. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has proposed a new formula in response to the Allahabad High Court judgment. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has accepted the UGC recommendations.

What Was the High Court Judgement?

The court was hearing a matter pertaining to the appointment of faculty members at the Banaras Hindu University. The court said that each department and not the entire university should be treated as a ‘unit’ on which reservations should be based. The court was unhappy with the way the reservation provisions were implemented in a ‘blanket manner’.

It said in its order, “If the University is taken as a ‘Unit’ for every level of teaching and applying the roster, it could result in some departments/ subjects having all reserved candidates and some only unreserved candidates. Such a proposition again would be discriminatory and unreasonable. This again would be violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.”

The Allahabad High Court Building

This order of the court and interpretation is contested by many faculty members. Prof. Rajesh Paswan, a faculty member at the Center of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “The department has not been defined. The meaning of a government department is different that from that of an educational institution. There is a circular from the DoPT that if the reservation is not fulfilled, then the posts should be clubbed. Instead, what is being done is that things are being minimized and the same is going to hurt candidates from the SC, ST and OBC communities’.

What is also important is that when the government funds a public university, it considers the University as a unit and not the departments. So, when the government wants to have its way, funding becomes a big tool to arm twist the institutions. If the government says that it is committed to fulfill the reservation provisions guaranteed by the constitution and the same does not happen, then who will it question – a department or the university? This decision goes against the government’s own circular. What is also important is that at the end of the judgment, the court also asked the UGC to examine the issue and find out how the reservation provisions can be fulfilled.

Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) executive council member Prof. Surendra Kumar is sitting on an indefinite fast against the circular since March 8. He said, “The circular has two direct impacts on the teachers – one that the reserved posts will go down drastically and second that it will violate the constitution. The reservation will go down to 25-30 percent whereas the constitution mandates it at 49.5 percent. This government does not want people to question its decisions and it’s a direct attack on the freedom of expression. It is also intended that the people from the poor and deprived sections should not be able to join the mainstream. The two important foundations of this country are secularism and social justice among others.”

How Is This Decision Going to Impact Candidates from the Backward Communities?

Currently, reserved seats are calculated by treating the university as a ‘unit’. This essentially means that all the posts of professors, associate professors and assistant professors are clubbed and then the number of reserved seats is calculated. Under the new formula, reserved posts would be calculated by considering the department as a ‘unit’. This means that if there is one post of, say, an assistant professor, it will be a general post and it cannot be reserved.  The same rule will be applicable for the posts of professors and associate professors as well. The point being made is that if all posts are clubbed in one grade then the chances of SC, ST and OBC positions being set aside is greater.

Even in the current system, the representation of teachers from the backward sections is abysmal. UGC’s own report of 2016-17 proves it. According to its data, there were 1.62 lakh teachers at the universities. The same data also had category-wise positions of SC, ST and OBCs respectively at the 30 central and 82 public universities. The report reveals that out of the total 31,466 people recruited as professors, associate professors and assistant professors, only 9,130 went to SC, ST and OBCs. It is less than 30 percent against their combined quota of 49.5 percent. If we break it further, 7,308 were assistant professors, 1,193 were associate professors and just 629 were professors. As of April 1, 2017, as many as 5,997 teaching positions are vacant at 41 UGC-funded central universities across the country – 2,457 assistant professor, 2,217 associate professor and 1,098 professor posts.

When the present scenario is so bad, imagine what might happen when the new rule of considering a department as a unit comes to force! It is anybody’s guess that the number will further go down.

Bhalchandra Mungekar, a former Rajya Sabha MP and a member of the now-disbanded planning commission said, “In the days of the privatization of education and more particularly higher technical-professional education, the disadvantaged sections would primarily depend on the publicly-funded central and state universities and colleges for education, as also for jobs. Private universities and educational institutions do not implement the reservation policy nor do they offer concessions in fees or scholarships. Distressingly, when the government privatizes public education institutions, they too withdraw the benefits earlier enjoyed by these communities. Therefore, thousands of students of these communities who are enrolling for PG, MPhil and PhD programmes depend only upon the central and the state universities for getting higher technical-professional education, as also for teaching positions”.

The teachers are up in arms against this new formula. Rajesh Paswan said that all the avenues are being explored to challenge it. On March 15, the teachers will march from the UGC office to the HRD ministry. In other parts of the country also, teachers are organising protests. There is a campaign going on to get the issue raised in the ongoing session of the parliament and also approach the National Commission for SC & ST. On the question of approaching the court, teachers feel that the government should challenge the judgement in the court.

#reservations #ugc

Reporting by Kumar Dhananjay
Editorial Consultant, Delhi