Massive Furore Forces UGC to Withdraw De-Reservation Policy

The issue gathered steam on social media, netizens trending #casteist-UGC” to register their protest.
Massive Furore Forces UGC to Withdraw De-Reservation Policy

New Delhi: In an apparent damage control after a fiasco, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a clarification that there will be no de-reservation and that the draft guidelines for the implementation of reservation in higher education institutes are not final.

According to Chapter X of the proposed guidelines, reserved vacancy may be declared unreserved by following the procedure of de-reservation, and it can be filled as an unreserved vacancy. 

The draft guidelines released by the UGC on December 27 also states that “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”. 

The draft guidelines for the teaching and non-teaching posts in higher education institutes also proposes de-reservation in case of Group “C” or “D” vacancies as well as promotions in case of “unavailability” of suitable candidates.

Public opinions were invited on the guidelines by January 28.

However, the issue gathered steam offline and online, with netizens began trending #casteist-UGC” on microblogging site X. They alleged various departments in universities deliberately keep the reserved seats vacant by declaring candidates unfit.

Author and journalist Dilip C. Mandal wrote in a post on the social media, “The University Grants Commission has charted out a plan to fill reserved posts with candidates belonging to other than SC, ST, OBC communities. This is happening at a time when the public is preoccupied with the Ram Temple issue. This is a stealthy attack.”

The Left describe the proposed guidelines as the “most retrograde step in line with the Manuvadi, anti-Dalit, anti-Adivasi social structure promoted by the Modi regime”.

“By declaring no SC/ST qualifies, positions are de-reserved to perpetuate caste-based oppression. Withdraw this draft,” demanded Communist Party of India (Marxist) Secretary-General Sitaram Yechury.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said it’s an unconstitutional decision through which the Union Government wants to end reservation. The party sees it as “a well-planned conspiracy to end reservation for SC, ST and OBC”.

“This shows that casteist mentality of the government. The proposal is also a conspiracy to keep the Bahujans (marginalised) deprived of education,” said BSP National Co-ordinator Akash Anand.

All India OBC Students Association has written to Dr HS Rana, the chairman of the expert committee constituted for this process, stating that the “HEI (Higher Education Institutes) should refrain from de-reserving SC, ST, OBC, PWD posts and make every effort to fill reserved positions without resorting to de-reservation”.

The letter also suggested that the selection board /committee should include one member each from SC/ST/OBC, women and minority communities in accordance with the DoPT guidelines.

Ambedkar Students’ Association, University of Hyderabad, has submitted a representation to the UGC, condemning the de-reservation provision and demanded that the policy be withdrawn immediately from the draft.

UGC Clarifies

Sensing the mounting trouble, the Ministry of Education clarified that no reserved post would be de-reserved.

“Reservation in Central Educational Institutions (CEI) is provided for all posts in direct recruitment in teacher’s 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. The Ministry of Education has given directives to all the CEIs to fill up the vacancies strictly as per the 2019 ACT.”

After the ministry, the UGC also had to issue a clarification

"This is to clarify that there has been no de-reservation of reserved category positions in the CEI 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 reserved category,” the higher education body stated.

Through the UGC has tried to clear the air, yet many opine that its draft guidelines is intended to infringe upon the reservation system. And it was only the backlash that forced it to take a u-turn.

From Roster Controversy to De-Reservation Proposal  

This is not the first time that the government has had to give in to the demands after protests from the marginalised sections. The UGC had put out a notification in March 2018, directing the institutes to abide by the 13-point roster system for recruitment of faculty members. The notification was issued following a judgment by the Allahabad High Court (April 2017), which said that the 200-point roster system was faulty.

The UGC had issued a notification on March 5, 2018, directing all universities and colleges to implement the reservation policy for positions reserved for candidates belonging to the SC, ST and OBC categories by treating the department as a unit rather than the concerned university or college as a unit. It was fiercely opposed by the academia.

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