Conspiracy of silence PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 May 2006 00:00
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Anyone who has read the series of news reports this newspaper has run on the findings from the National Sample Survey’s 1999-2000 round will agree there is no case for reservations of the sort being contemplated today, either in private sector jobs or in colleges, as this is not where the problem of inequity lies. But while we are not for reservations, it would be unfair to blame Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh alone for the mess that has been created, as both the medical students as well as sections of the Congress Party are attempting to do. Indeed, the two members of the Knowledge Commission who have resigned in protest, have held the Prime Minister accountable, by way of his relative inaction. There is no doubt that Mr Singh shot his bolt without being authorised to do so, but the HRD minister is right when he says he was merely fulfilling what had been mandated by Parliament. Apologists insist this is not true since the Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) Act of 2005 was about private educational institutions. Indeed, they point out that the Bill specifically says it does not apply to institutions like the Central medical colleges or the IITs—while specifying who it applies to, the Act says it applies to all institutions deemed to be universities, “other than those promoted and maintained by the Central Government; and, imparting professional education.”
That’s true, but did any of those worthies in the Congress party, or those who passed the Bill in Parliament, think it had a hope of sailing through without having reservations in centrally-run/promoted institutions as well? How can you have reservations in a privately-run medical college when you don’t have one in AIIMS? The same is true for privately-run engineering colleges. On these grounds alone, the Act would have been subject to credible legal challenge. In which case, whether Mr Singh is solely to blame for uncorking the genie is doubtful.
The bigger part of the blame just has to lie with the legislators from each party that helped make the Act a reality. If the legislators didn’t see this obvious contradiction, they are guilty of a severe myopia; if they were aware of it, and still passed the Bill, clearly they thought the Bill didn’t need to be implemented, and that the mere tokenism involved in passing the Bill would be enough to get additional votes. To that extent, even if inadvertently, Mr Singh has done all a favour by forcing them to come out in the open with their positions on the matter of reservations. That the Congress Party is still refusing to come clean on the matter, and is trying to obfuscate the issue by talking of reservations in a phased manner along with increased seats in various colleges, is testimony to just how deep the hypocrisy runs—indeed, while agreeing with anti-reservationists in private, no politician wants to come out in the open as they fear they’ll lose votes if seen as anti-SC/ST/OBC. The media, needless to say, is not without its share of the blame, either, as, when the Bill got passed, most failed to realise its implications. It was only when the striking medicos forced the nation to focus on the Act that its full implications are hitting us in the face.



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