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'Rollback De-Reservation': Students, Teachers' Groups Protest UGC Move

The education regulator, in a recent notification, stated that the universities may de-reserve the posts meant for marginalised communities if they do not find suitable candidates.
students protest

Delhi: With clenched fists and flags, the students affiliated with different organisations protested at the headquarters of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in the national capital on Monday to oppose the latest notification for the de-reservation of Group A posts in central universities. 

The education regulator, in a recent notification, stated that the universities may de-reserve the posts meant for marginalised communities if they do not find suitable candidates. However, the universities have to seek the permission of the Ministry of Education for this purpose.

The UGC, in the notification, said, “There is a general ban on de-reservation of reserved vacancies in case of direct recruitment. However, 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 proposal for de-reservation in case of Group’ C’ or ‘D’ should go to the Executive Council of the University and in case of Group’ A’ or ‘B’ should be submitted to the Ministry of Education, giving full details, for necessary approval. After receiving the approval, the post may be filled and reservation may be carried forward.”

Mudita, a research scholar at Delhi University, told NewsClick at the protest that the provisions for de-reservation came as a shock to many students like her who are first-generation learners and could enter into higher education. “Perhaps the UGC officials do not know the experience of pursuing education with little means and enter into classrooms to seek education. Getting a job here is certainly a golden dream for us. It is a matter of shame that such a proposal was drafted to accommodate the relatives of people who already occupy positions of power,” she said.

She added, “I must remind you that constitutional provisions like reservation were never given to oppressed communities by willingness. People fought for it and got it. Despite this, we have a very small population from these communities that avail such benefits. The data from the previous year suggest that only 42% of seats were filled in admissions across 48 central universities. The ruling party is saying that Ram Rajya has come, but you will always be Shambuka and Eklavya, who must be ready to sacrifice their thumbs and necks.”

A student from the Mizo tribal community pursuing his education at Delhi University told NewsClick that it is the imposition of “Brahminisation” of higher education. “The people sitting in Delhi have set different stereotypes about us, but they do not know about our economic and social hardships. Reservation as affirmative action is our way to reach the equality of opportunities that is available to people belonging to higher castes,” the student said.

The teachers’ groups have also presented a scathing criticism of the development. They maintained that the draft was an attempt to legitimise the malafide act of declaring reserved posts as ‘Not Found Suitable’ (NFS), an anti-reservation act aimed at shirking away from fulfilling the Constitutional mandate of reservation. 

Abha Dev Habib, secretary of Democratic Teachers Front, said that de-reserving these posts is the next step to ensure that society’s socially and economically underprivileged segments are excluded from knowledge production and empowerment through employment.

She added, "It is a fact that the rampant contractualisation and hiring through private agencies in the case of Group C and D has already led to the erosion of the constitutional provisions of reservation. Now, the attempt is to do the same for Group A and B services, which is nothing but an attack on the reservation policy itself. Similarly, short-term teaching posts because of NEP (New Education Policy) and filling of full-time posts by guest faculty (on lecture basis) is an attack on the teaching profession as well as reservation.”

In a press statement, Aditya Narain Mishra, National In-charge, Academic for Action and Development Teachers Association, said, "In the name of public interest, UGC wants to tear the ethos of social justice and equal opportunities enshrined in the very idea of reservation provided by the Constitution. The constitutional provisions related to affirmative action are not mere words but expressions of a constitutional commitment towards millions of people who have been systematically discriminated owing to their caste identities for centuries and deprived of the access to public institutions and resources. UGC seeks to topple whatever growth made in this direction since independence."

Mishra further called the proposition to introduce de-reservation a "preposterous act". He said, "The de-reservation provision will open a window of discrimination against reserved category candidates. You may be aware that Not Found Suitable against reserved seats is already a pervasive phenomenon in the recruitment (teaching) carried out in Higher Education Institutions. It will be shown that the institution/university could not find suitable candidates against reserved vacancies; hence, the said posts should be de-reserved in the public interest. The de-reservation provision will create an enabling space for Selection Committee/Appointing Authority to misuse the said provision.”

The furore against the UGC's draft guidelines on the reservation policy led to the body claiming on January 28 that the draft guidelines were not final and there would be no de-reservation.

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