Reserving seats for Delhi students at Delhi University: A shortsighted resolution by Delhi Assembly

Posted on August 1, 2017

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Authored By  Sanjay Goel

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Admissions in good quality colleges remain a challenge for most Indian students. The subsequent governments at all levels have largely failed in creating a good education infrastructure with the required scale, speed, and scope. While Delhi’s education infrastructure is certainly much better than the rest of the country, with its large and ever expanding student population, it certainly needs many more universities and colleges. Instead of deciding to accelerate the growth of universities and colleges in Delhi, on 30th June 2017, the Delhi Assembly passed a resolution to reserve 85% seats at 28 DU colleges fully or partially funded by the Delhi government. Earlier the state Congress government had also passed a similar resolution in 2013 and some state BJP leaders too have raised such a demand. The Delhi Assembly also passed another resolution on the same day demanding amendment in the DU Act 1922 which empowers DU as the sole university to affiliate Delhi based colleges unless specifically permitted to do so by the central government. Both these resolutions will now be considered by the Lt. Governor, the central government, and also the DU.

Delhi government is well justified in demanding the proposed amendment in the DU Act so that it can start many new colleges and affiliate them its own universities. Though, this clause of the DU Act 1922 is completely outdated given the scale and scope of the requirement, the Delhi government is already running an affiliating university, GGSIPU, and it must have taken the required permissions from the central government. Given this precedence, it can seek such permissions for more of its future universities, whenever it wants to start a few more affiliating universities. However, Delhi Assembly’s first resolution to seek reservation at 28 DU colleges for Delhi students is an ill-conceived and shortsighted decision for various reasons related to quality of educational experience, justice, Delhi’s congestion, etc.

The first reason relates to the issue of quality of education. For the last few years, there is a huge emphasis on accreditation and ranking of universities and colleges. There is a shared public concern and desire to see some of the Indian universities in the list of world’s top 100. Ethnic, regional, linguistic, class, caste and gender-based and other forms of diversity of student and faculty populations are very important for the multi-dimensional development of the students. The accreditation and ranking criteria developed by various accreditation or ranking agencies, including MHRD’s NAAC and NIRF, include the regional and other kind of diversity of students and faculty. However, this fact is largely ignored by the state governments while insisting on excessive and sometime nearly 100% domicile based reservation in their universities. While most other forms of reservations work towards increasing the diversity of student population, the domicile based reservation works against it. Delhi state universities also keep 85% seats reserved for Delhi students. Fortunately, the central universities like DU do not usually provide state based reservation. Delhi government’s attempt to damage the diversity at a leading central university must be rejected. India cannot afford to see a further slide-down of one of its best universities because of decreased regional diversity.

The second reason is that the Delhi students already get a majority share of around 60% seats at not only these 28 Delhi government funded colleges but at all the other DU colleges and centres. Delhi students also enjoy the privilege of comfortable and easy access to a reputed central university without the need to relocate or everyday travel long distance as is the case with the non Delhi students. The students of other states have to manage the financial and other pressures for this access.

The main argument being given in favour of the demanded reservation at the 28 colleges fully or partially funded by the Delhi government is that Delhi Tax payers’ money is used to run these colleges. The third reason is that a part of this argument about full funding by Delhi government is fallacious because all the so called Delhi government funded colleges also draw upon the DU’s intellectual as well as administrative leadership and other university resources in addition to the famous brand of the DU. Hence, Delhi government can only claim to partially instead of fully funding these colleges.

Further, Delhi’s wealth and richness cannot be delinked from the fact as the capital of this country, it has always drawn and attracted the resources and talent from all over the country. Through these resources and talent, it has evolved as a major trade and manufacturing hub of the country. The consumers and traders in almost all other states buy the goods and services offered by Delhi manufacturers, wholesale businesses, and other companies that collect tax from them before passing the same to the state government. Hence, the fourth reason is that the Indians living outside Delhi too significantly contribute to the Delhi’s tax corpus and should have a fair right on the infrastructure developed through it.

Many families from Delhi have shifted to the nearby NCR cities like Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad, etc. These cities have helped in managing the Delhi’s over-congestion. Many families residing at these cities chose to shift here for better accommodation and access to better schools. A large number of people residing in these cities work at Delhi and contribute to its economy. Good schools in these cities also attract many students from Delhi as well. However, there are no good quality government colleges or universities in these cities. The fifth reason is that such reservation at nearly 40% DU colleges will be very unfair to these families as it will highly reduce their access to these colleges. Their access to several other universities and colleges in Delhi, e.g., GGSIPU, DTU, IGDTU, IIITD, NSIT, NLU, and AUD is already very restricted because of 85% reservation for Delhi students at these institutes. Many families residing in these cities overcome this restriction by transferring their children to Delhi schools especially after their 10th class. Often this transfer is not to a more reputed school as it is mainly motivated by the reservation advantage to Delhi students at these institutes. The proposed reservation at DU colleges will multiply the number of such students manifold and it will also discourage more families to shift from Delhi to these cities. Perhaps, many of those who have shifted may also start coming back to Delhi, and increase Delhi’s congestion. Hence, in order to make NCR a more integrated unit, the DU Act revision exercise should also consider empowering DU to affiliate colleges in NCR outside Delhi with the financial support of local bodies. DU should be authorised to start its campuses, centres, and colleges in NCR out Delhi.

In the interest of its citizens, both the Delhi government and the DU have joined hands to start and more colleges and the Delhi government has rightly extended the financial support for many such colleges in different parts of the city. The sixth reason is that the terms and conditions of Delhi government’s support for these colleges did not include a provision for a privileged access to Delhi students. Reservation at these colleges now will violate the original agreement.

Delhi government is trying to do some good work in the field of education. It significantly increased the budget allotment for education, increased the number of classrooms in government schools, converted a few of its colleges into universities, started a few more campuses, and added more programs and seats at existing colleges and universities. However, this has not been sufficient as the educational aspirations for a relatively richer city are also much higher.   Delhi needs to urgently double its higher education infrastructure through public and private investment. However, instead of increasing the resources and opportunities to meet the demand, our politicians continue to rely more on the zero-sum game to distribute the limited resources and opportunities through various kinds of reservations, state based reservation in this case.

Historically, Delhi has always been very welcoming to the talent from all over India and even abroad. It had shown the magnanimity to elect a Ghaziabad resident as its chief minister. Ironically instead of working hard on the project of doubling the educational infrastructure in Delhi, the same chief minister and other new generation AAP politicians, most of whom themselves are beneficiaries of Delhi’s welcoming arms, and who also love to shout the slogan of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” have now found it easier to play the identity politics through the populist game of demanding state reservation even at a central university. In the interest of high quality education, all steps must be taken to stop excessive localization of DU and all other universities and institutes especially the ones aspiring to rank well in the national and international lists. All state universities should agree to restrict the reservation for their state students to 60%. It may also be appropriate for the UGC to consider such a regulation. The central research and other grants can also be linked to this condition.

Meanwhile, the shortage of colleges in Delhi should not be overcome by the short-sighted and populist step of reservation for Delhi students at DU. While in the short term, such a step may benefit around 2000-3000 more Delhi students in their admission, it will damage the quality of educational experience of a much larger student population by decreasing the diversity at these colleges. For the last several years, the Delhi government has been taking some good but small initiatives in the field of higher education. It should further intensify, accelerate, and scale up its efforts and imagination to take some big steps and start more state universities and colleges. Further, as it alone will not be able to speedily make the required investment, it should also invite reputed private groups to start a few new generation high quality private universities in Delhi.

 

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