Teachers reservation bill passed after a controversial journey

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 04, 2019 15:13 hrs
Ramesh Pokhriya

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservations in teacher’s cadre) Bill. On Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha passed the bill as well. This piece of legislation will aim to fill the more than 7000 vacancies in more than 40 central universities across the country.

Colleges and universities will now provide reservations for teaching posts according to the strength of the institution. The bill also ensures that in faculty appointments by direct recruitment, reservations will be made for person belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the Socially and Economically Backward Classes.

In March of this year, an ordinance was approved by the cabinet which included a 200- point roster system that considered the university as a unit rather a 13-point roster system which considered a department as a unit. One year prior, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a directive that stated SC/ST/OBC vacancies would be filled by considering a department or subject as one unit and not he entire university.

In a 200-point system, 99 posts were reserved for SC/ST/OBC’s and the remaining 101 were for unreserved. In a 13-point system, in a department, the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth posts will be unreserved. The fourth, eighth and twelfth will be reserved for OBC’s, seventh for SC’s and the 14 th for ST’s. The remaining will also be unreserved. In many universities, the size of departments is usually small, with very few holding more than 14 faculty positions.

In 2017, the Allahabad High Court struck down the UGC regulations that treated the institution as the unit for determining the roster. The petitioners in the case didn’t want the recruitment drive at Banaras Hindu University to go ahead. They wanted each department to be treated as a unit to calculate the number of posts reserved for SC/ST’s. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. This led the UGC in changing the approach to fill vacancies. The Hindu editorial lauded the decision of the bill being passed –

“Bill on reservation in central academic cadre provides relief to disadvantaged sections. Legislation to overcome the effects of court verdicts is not always a good idea. However, sometimes an exception ought to be made in the larger public interest.”

In March, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot wrote to Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar stating – “The roster should be prepared taking university as unit and do away with the department being taken as a unit so that they get representation in academic world and teaching posts in the spirit of our Constitution”.

Misrepresentation and misconstruing the order and the constitution was one of the reasons why the UGC decided to change its approach when it came to recruitment. Article 15 of the constitution notes that no state shall be prevented from making provisions for the advancement of socially and economically backward classes and citizens. Anish Gupta and Aaleya Giri, teachers at Delhi University, in an op-ed for The Hindu write on violations of reservation by top universities –

“Though OBCs account for about 50% of the country’s population, their representation in all faculty positions in all central educational institutions is only 9.8%. Professors, who play a significant role in the recruitment process, at times misinterpret the constitutional provisions.”

According to an RTI filed by The Print, more than 80% of seats reserved for SC/ST’s at the associate professor and professor levels in universities were lying vacant as of January2018. Reservations for teaching posts was first decided in the 1970’s, but was implemented in the 1990’s. As the Scroll reported from last year, Delhi University’s political science department did not have a reserved category until 2001. The same report highlighted that the presence of Dalit faculty and teachers from OBC’s made the campus more progressive.

According to a 2016 government report, only 7 out of every 100 teachers in colleges and universities were from backward classes. Since the UGC order of March 2018, data from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment out of the 11 central universities that advertised for more than 700 vacancies, only 2.5% were for SC’s and none for ST’s.

In January, the government passed the Constitution Amendment Bill granting 10% reservation in government jobs. However, of the 29 lakh posts lying vacant, teaching posts across all levels – elementary, higher education and university remain the highest amounting to more than 13 lakh. The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), in a February report stated the following – “The shortage of qualified faculties is more prominent in the newly opened universities — around 48 per cent of the posts are vacant across all these universities”.

In measuring the progress of a country, education is a top tier parameter and the quality of the institute and the people there are vital. A diverse array of faculty is essential in keeping the standards of education high and sparking intellectual curiosity. With this bill, the onus is on the government to ensure that all sections of society are represented in education.

More columns by Varun Sukumar