New Delhi: For the first time, private higher education institutions, both aided and unaided, will have to reserve 10% seats for the economically weaker sections, according to the reservation bill passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

However, private education players feel it will have negative ramifications and argued that the proposed law will face legal hurdles. So far, such institutions were not implementing any reservations.

“The Constitution (124 Amendment) Bill, 2019, provides for reservation for economically weaker section of the society in higher educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state other than the minority educational institutions referred to in Article 30 of the Constitution," the bill said.

What it also means that minority educational institutions will not be bound to reserve seats for the economically backward.

The bill, if it secures parliamentary approval, will for the first time bring in reservation even in private-unaided colleges and universities, which constitute around 70% of institutions in the country. India is home to around 50,000 institutions catering to more than 35 million students in higher education.

The bill, in its present form, will face resistance from private education providers as they do not reserve seats for Scheduled Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST) or Other Backward Classes (OBC) students, said academicians and education entrepreneurs.

“This reservation plan in private institutions may have political backing, but it won’t serve the education sector. Can the government shift its responsibility to the private sector?" asked Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of the Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), a federation of private education players.

“Reservation is no substitute for lack of adequate number of jobs in the market," said Chaturvedi, who is also the director of the Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH) in Greater Noida.

The move will have four key ramifications on the sector—quality, recruiters’ apathy, legal problems, and cost involved with it, said private education players.

The bill may also open up avenues for caste-based reservations in private educational institutions, they said. “If the government mandates, then private players will have to abide by it, but it will set the precedent for reservations of all kinds in private sector," said Raju Davis Parepadan, who runs a chain of professional colleges in Kerala.

Parepadan said its an untested territory, but going by precedence,it will face legal challenges and may not survive Supreme Court scrutiny.

The biggest challenge will come from recruiters, said a private university promoter in Haryana, requesting anonymity. “We don’t have government support like IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) or central universities. If recruiters stay away from us because of quality dilution, our survival will be at stake," said the promoter.

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