New Delhi: Despite a court ruling staying a new law prescribing 27% reservations for other backward classes (OBCs), the government will proceed with an increase in education cess that will be levied on every taxpaying Indian starting Sunday. The funds generated from raising the cess from 2% to 3% were to pay for new seats in higher education that were to be created to offset the impact of reservation.
But the Supreme Court on Thursday passed a stay order on the 27% reservations of seats for other backward classes in centrally-funded educational institutions.
Officials said the money from the education cess allocated to higher education during the current (2007-08) academic year—Rs2,698 crore—will be used to fund an expansion of seats in colleges regardless of the apex court ruling. The extent of expansion is not immediately known as colleges still have to meet with their boards of directors.
“We need the money to expand and we will expand,” said an official who advises the government on education policy. “We will encourage institutions to use the money”.
Colleges said they will spend the money on infrastructure to increase the number of students they can enroll. “IIT has not got the money so far. But when we get it, we will use it. We have wanted to raise our strength for a long time,” said M.S. Ananth, director of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
IIT-Madras has 5,000 seats. It had planned to make a graded increase of its seats for the next few years to expand its capacity to 9,000 by the year 2014. The government’s original decision called for 27% of seats to be reserved for the other backward classes—but without displacing anyone in the general population or the 27% of scheduled castes and tribes. It sent colleges scrambling to draft plans for more professors, classrooms and hostels to accommodate the expected influx.
Colleges said they have not yet decided if they will add the same number of extra seats planned prior to the Supreme Court ruling. The Veerappa Moily Committee, set up by the government to placate student protests against seat reservations, had recommended a 54% seat expansion in institutes of higher learning—this expansion would have kept seats for general category students steady while making way for the new students.
The government official said that seats that were to go to OBC students may be kept vacant “till the last minute” as the government is quite confident of getting a favourable court ruling. The government is seeking to reinstitute a quota for OBCs.
But vacant seats are still a long distance away. Many colleges had not planned for the capacity expansion which was to begin anyway in the academic year starting this June. Delhi University (DU), with a student population of 1.2 lakh, did not get any orders from the University Grants Commission, the regulatory body for many central universities, on seat expansion.
DU colleges are now using the SC decision as a breather to plan better.