Deprived of their due

A study highlights the flouting of the norms of reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in appointments to institutions of higher learning.

T.K. RAJALAKSHMI
in New Delhi

THE way in which the reservation system for the Scheduled Castes (S.Cs) and the Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts) has been implemented by the universities in the appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff leaves a great deal to be desired, according to a study undertaken by the Forum of Academics for Social Justice, an organisation of university teachers and scholars. Reservation for the S.Cs and the S.Ts has been in existence for nearly 50 years. The constitutional provisions relating to it envisage represen tation in public services to these economically and socially backward sections on the basis of their respective share in the national population - 15 per cent in the case of the S.Cs and 7.5 per cent in the case of the S.Ts.

The number of teaching and non-teaching posts held by persons belonging to the S.Cs and the S.Ts in many universities and colleges is far short of the quota fixed by the University Grants Commission (UGC). In the 239 universities and around 7,000 college s covered by the study, S.C. and S.T. members appointed under the reservation system constitute less than 2 per cent of the nearly three lakh teachers. This, the Forum contends, is tantamount to a continuous flouting of the reservation policy despite the fact that the UGC has regulated recruitments in these institutions, since its inception in 1956. The study was conducted in early 1999 by a five-member committee of the Forum.

The low presence of these groups in teaching positions does not, according to the Forum, mean that there is a dearth of deserving candidates. The Forum says that apparently, it is a deliberate attempt by university and college authorities to make the res ervation policy ineffectual that has been mainly responsible for such a situation. In the Forum's opinion the implementation of the reservation system has been rendered all the more difficult by the absence of a provision for representation to these grou ps in the highest decision-making bodies of universities, such as the Executive and the Academic Council. In addition, the absence of a monitoring system that could ensure the implementation of the reservation system has only served to undermine the inte rests of those sections that the reservation policy is meant to benefit. It has been only through the consistent efforts of certain democratic teaching groups and the S.C. and S.T. associations in universities that these facts have been brought to light.

The study identified the Central universities as the major defaulters. It found that in Delhi University, the largest Central university, not even 2 per cent of posts had been filled with S.C. and S.T. candidates. According to Forum chairman Hansraj Suma n, 310 posts of professors, 222 posts of readers, and 133 posts of lecturers exist in the university departments, while affiliated colleges of the university account for 7,000 posts of teachers. However, only four posts of lecturers, one post of reader, and three of professors in the university departments, and around 20 posts of lecturers in the affiliated colleges have been filled with S.C. or S.T. candidates.

The same situation prevails in two other major universities in Delhi. In Jamia Millia Islamia, there were 80 posts of professors, 128 of readers, 216 of lecturers and 30 of research associates, but only three posts were filled with S.C. or S.T. candidate s as against their quota of 106. In Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has 183 posts of professors, 123 of readers and 71 of lecturers, only 15 posts in all (against 89 under the quota) have been filled with S.C. or S.T. candidates.

The situation is perhaps the worst in Aligarh Muslim University, also a Central university. According to the study, not one of the 263 teaching posts meant for S.C. or S.T. candidates has been filled. In Benaras Hindu University (BHU), there are in all 1 ,145 posts - 340 of professors, 415 of readers and 390 of lecturers. Although 257 of these are reserved for the S.Cs and the S.Ts, only 14 have been filled. There have been no recruitments under the reserved category for quite some time in BHU, according to the Forum. In Hyderabad's Central University, only 11 of the 49 reserved posts have been filled. The corresponding figures for Vishwa-Bharati and the Central University in Pondicherry are 18 out of 69 and 15 out of 34 respectively.

Other universities in which the situation was found to be unsatisfactory by the study included Osmania University (Hyderabad), Guwahati University (where not a single post of the 70 reserved for S.C. or S.T. candidates was filled by reserved-category can didates), Maharishi Dayanand University (Rohtak), Jodhpur University and Panjab University (Chandigarh). Among some reputed institutes where posts meant for S.C. and S.T. candidates remain vacant are the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (Hyderabad), the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Pilani), the Indian Institute of Mines (Dhanbad) and the Tata Institute of Social Work (Mumbai).

Only in the North-Eastern Hill University (Shillong) has reservation been implemented with some seriousness and the majority of the reserved positions (74 of the 76) have been filled, according to the study.

Forum members complained that the reservation policy had not ever been implemented seriously and that it had even been flouted in many cases. They did not agree with the perception that the non-filling of posts reserved for S.Cs or S.Ts was owing to the non-availability of suitable candidates from these categories. For instance, over 2,000 candidates with either an M.Phil or a Ph.D., which makes them eligible for appointment as university teachers, have registered their names with the UGC's special cell , according to Dr. P.D. Sahare, general secretary of the Forum.

A petition relating to this situation is pending before the Delhi High Court. Filed in May 1999 by the Forum of Academics for Social Justice and the Delhi University and College S.C./S.T. Employees Welfare Association, the public interest petition challe nges the non-filling of the S.C./S.T. quotas in the university and its affiliated colleges. The petitioners have alleged that despite repeated representations and demonstrations the required number of teaching and non-teaching posts under the quota has n ot been filled. They fear that the university, which started implementing reservation only in 1996 (unlike other universities and colleges where reservation was prevalent much earlier) might effect some "undesirable" change in its reservation policy sinc e it is understood to be contemplating the replacement of the existing vacancy-based rosters by post-based rosters without first meeting the constitutional obligation of filling 22.5 per cent of posts with persons belonging to the S.Cs and the S.Ts. This , the petitioners have contended, will further curtail the chances of candidates from these two under-privileged social groups to occupy university posts.

The petition has cited as respondents Delhi University and its affiliated colleges, the UGC, the Union of India and the Government of Delhi. The petition seeks, among other things, directions to the respondents to "ensure that the representation of perso ns belonging to the reserved categories in a cadre reaches the prescribed percentage of reservation within a specified schedule of time". The court's decision on the petition, which is expected soon, will have a significant impact on the implementation o f the reservation policy in colleges and universities across the country.

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