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The case for reservation in educational institutes and government and public sector jobs rests on the argument that it furthers equality of opportunity. After a point, the argument gets diluted and holds no meaning. The diktat on faculty reservation in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) is counterproductive and devoid of substance.

Illustration: Malay Karmakar / Mint

In early June, the Union human resources development ministry ordered IITs? to reserve 22.5% places for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and 27% for other backward classes in teaching positions. IITs have taken a dim view of this order. On Friday, the directors of IITs took a tough stand and demanded their institutes be considered at par with institutes of national importance where such reservations do not prevail.

The scheme of reservations that the government has in mind, and its consequences, raise troubling questions, questions that go far beyond the usual reservation-fetches-votes argument. The order says that for science and technology, reservations shall prevail up to lecturer and assistant professor levels, while in the case of social sciences, management and humanities, reservations will be up to professor rank.

One can ask why the government is discriminating between institutes and subjects while ordering reservations.

For example, there is no reservation in teaching positions in institutes of “national importance" such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc), among others. Are IITs and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences any less “national" than TIFR and Barc? From the point of view of training manpower (of which India has an acute shortage these days), the importance of IITs is perhaps much greater than that of TIFR and Barc. The latter are research institutions and can source their faculty from the best universities in the world as their size and scale of operations are much smaller.

Why single out IITs? Are science and technology “more important" that they can withstand reservation till the lecturer/assistant professor level only? Are the humanities and social sciences “less important" that reservations in their domain have to go to full professorial level? What is the basis for this classification?

These divisions are the result of what economist Gunnar Myrdal called an “enclave" mentality: a few centres of academic excellence in an ocean of mediocrity. IITs and India deserve better.

Should there be faculty reservation in IITs? Write to us at views@livemint.com

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