Govt, UGC go on backfoot in UGC 'de-reservation' discussion; say no such thing
New UGC draft guidelines, placed in the public domain for feedback till 28 Jan, drew flak for proposing that SC/ST/OBC seats be unreserved if no candidates are available
Controversy erupted on the evening of 28 January, Sunday, over the UGC's draft guidelines proposing that any seats reserved for SC, ST and OBC candidates can be 'declared unreserved' if enough candidates from these categories are not available.
The Indian National Congress termed it a conspiracy to do away with quotas in higher education institutions.
Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan clarified that not a single post will be de-reserved and there is no scope of ambiguity about reservations after the introduction of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers' Cadre) Act, 2019.
University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar also made it clear that there has been no de-reservation of reserved category positions in Central Educational Institutions (CEI) in the past and there is "going to be no such de-reservation".
The draft 'Guidelines for Implementation of the Reservation Policy of the Government of India in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs)' had been placed in the public domain for feedback from stakeholders to be accepted till 28 January.
The draft guidelines (image of excerpt shared below) drew flak from several quarters.
The Collective was one of the educational interest groups that condemned the proposal, calling on citizens in its X post of 28 January to 'Reject RSS-BJP's lies for justifying an end to reservation in universities.'
'It is not that candidates are unavailable,' the Collective said, but 'available candidates are 'not found suitable' and reserved seats are deliberately left vacant for years.' The group called on citizens to reject the UGC's "brahminical de-reservation guidelines".
The JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) at Jawaharlal Nehru University also announced a protest against UGC chairman Kumar on Monday, 29 January.
Kumar, however, said in his clarification that the ministry of education has given directives to all CEIs to fill up vacancies strictly per the 2019 Act.
The UGC chairman also posted from the commission's official handle: 'This is to clarify that there has been no de-reservation of reserved category positions in Central Educational Institutions in the past and there is going to be no such de-reservation.
'It is important for all HEIs to ensure that all backlog positions in the reserved category are filled up through concerted efforts.'
Jawaharlal Nehru University vice-chancellor Santishree D. Pandit hastened to clarify on Sunday that no posts at JNU have been de-reserved.
Pandit, in a statement on X, said 'As JNU VC I want to reiterate to all stakeholders that no posts in JNU have been de-reserved. We have got very good candidates under the reserved category.'
The statement mentioned that JNU follows the reservation policy as stipulated by the Centre and has an existing office memorandum which states that no de-reservation is allowed for any category of vacancies for SC, ST or OBC.
"The interchangeability of these categories are also not allowed," the statement added, citing that even the Supreme Court has expressed the same sentiment against the interchangeability of vacancies reserved for these categories.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, speaking to a workers' group in Dehradun, alleged that "the BJP is only busy in snatching the jobs of the youth".
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh demanded that the proposal be withdrawn immediately. In a post in Hindi, Ramesh said: 'A few years ago, RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) chief Mohan Bhagwat had talked about reviewing reservations. Now, there is a conspiracy to end the reservation given to SCs, STs and OBCs in higher education institutions.'
The opposition party accused the Centre of engaging in the 'politics of symbolism' alone on the issues of Dalits, backward classes and tribal peoples.
For his part, Pradhan told PTI: "Not a single reserved post will be de-reserved. There is no scope for ambiguity after the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019."
Earlier in the day, the ministry of education wrote on X: 'Reservation in Central Educational Institutions is provided for all posts in direct recruitment in the Teachers' cadre as per the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019.
'After enactment of this Act, no reserved post is to be de-reserved. Ministry of Education has given directives to all the CEIs to fill up the vacancies strictly as per the 2019 ACT.'
According to thee new draft guidelines by the UGC:
'A vacancy reserved for SC or ST or OBC cannot be filled by a candidate other than an SC or ST or OBC candidate, as the case may be.
'However, a reserved vacancy may be declared unreserved by following the procedure of de-reservation where after, it can be filled as an unreserved vacancy.
'There is a general ban on de-reservation of reserved vacancies in case of direct recruitment.
'However, in rare and exceptional cases when a vacancy in a Group A service cannot be allowed to remain vacant in public interest, the University concerned may prepare a proposal for de-reservation of the vacancy giving the following information:
'The proposal will be required to list — efforts made to fill up the post; reasons why it cannot be allowed to remain vacant and justification for de-reservation.
'The proposal for de-reservation in case of Group C or D should go to the Executive Council of the University and in case of Group A or B should be submitted to the Ministry of Education, giving full details, for necessary approval. After receiving the approval, the post may be filled and reservation may be carried forward.'
A separate section spoke of de-reservation 'in case of promotion':
'In case of promotion, if sufficient numbers of SC and ST candidates fit for promotion against reserved vacancies are not available, such vacancies may be de-reserved and filled by the candidates of other communities.
'The power to accord approval to the de-reservation of the reserved vacancies in such cases will be delegated to UGC and the Ministry of Education if certain conditions are met.
'The proposal can be considered if no candidate belonging to the category for which the vacancy is reserved is available within the zone of consideration or extended zone of consideration or eligible for promotion in the feeder cadre specified in the recruitment rules.
'The approval for de-reservation has been seen and concurred in by the liaison officer for SCST of the university. The proposal for de-reservation is agreed by the appropriate authority in UGC and the Ministry of Education.
'In case of disagreement between the appointing authority and the liaison officer for SC, ST of the university, the advice of the Department of Personnel and Training is obtained and implemented.'
Based on PTI inputs