University of Delhi recently rejected Delhi government’s proposal to reserve 90 per cent seats in 12 colleges that the varsity was funding. The university rejected the proposal citing that such a move would be against its central character and also said that a central university must be a representative of the country and not just one particular city.
Describing the essence and envisioning the future of the university he was heading, Sir Maurice Gwyer, Delhi University’s first vice chancellor once said, ‘I am speaking tonight to the citizens of Delhi. I hope that Delhi University will always be their university as well as a university for all India; and I look forward to the time when they will feel a great pride in its fortunes and in its work. Delhi University should not be afraid to draw its strength from a whole sub-continent. It should be a symbol of what India herself, above and beyond all her creeds or castes, can offer to the world.’
Sir Maurice Gwyer, then in 1940 in a talk broadcast over a Delhi station of All India Radio, explained to the citizens of Delhi how University of Delhi is of a central nature and how it represents the nation unanimously. Now, in 2014 this very notion of Gwyer’s has begun to draw questions from the city’s government and various political parties. Discarding the centrality of the university, they are seeking a 90 per cent reservation for the local Delhi students.
The former higher education minister AK Walia last year in October had proposed to provide 90 per cent reservation for students from the national capital in the 12 Delhi University colleges funded by the Delhi government. Following suit, the now former minister of education and a leading member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Manish Sisodia also proposed the same plan in January. He said, ‘If people of Delhi are funding these colleges, don’t they have a right to benefit from them? While thousands from across the country come and study in DU, our students are forced to go outside. The previous government had also planned on doing something about it, but nothing happened. We are determined to push this through.’
Sisodia had called the higher education in city a big mess and had said that each year more than 2.65 lakh students pass out from schools in Delhi but only 90,000 get admission in the Delhi colleges. He said that he wants to create a roadmap for the remaining 1.75 lakh students. BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan had also vouched for the 90 per cent quota proposal. Reservation in DU has become a political issue. While BJP has been demanding reservation since a long time, the Congress government had also decided to seek 90 per cent reservation in 12 of the colleges fully funded by it and 50 per cent seats in 16 colleges that are receiving 5 per cent funding from state government. BJP and AAP in their recent Lok Shabha election manifesto have also vowed to scrap the four-year undergraduate programme system. While all these political parties are trying to gain a favourable position among the city students, the proposal has not gone well with others from across India especially the students from Uttar pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and the Northeastern states who come to the city hoping for quality education.
A student from Bihar who is currently perusing her MA from Hindu college, Tanvi Prakash, said, ‘Delhi is a cosmopolitan place. People from all over the country come here expecting quality education. If this proposal ever gets implemented our aspirations of studying here would be completely doused. Everyone has a quota these days but a 90 per cent reservation seems highly discriminatory.’ Commenting on the same, Monami Gogoi, a student from Assam said, ‘We do not have very good higher education institutions back in Assam and most students from the Northeast look forward to studying in DU. A 90 per cent reservation for Delhi locals will hardly provide any opportunity for students like us.’ The question everybody is raising is that whether there is a need to reserve seats for the local students in the various universities of Delhi. Aren’t there adequate number of seats to accommodate the local students?
Millennium Post posed the same question to the spokesperson of one of the universities of Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia, on which Mukesh Ranjan said, ‘Delhi is a hub of education in India. People come here from different parts of the country. We encourage students from all over the country to join our institution. Reserving a major part of the seats for the local students would not be fair for others who apply from far-away states hoping to get quality education for themselves.’
He further said that their institution has a national perspective, however, they always welcomed local students as well as others, the final admissions happen on merit basis. Remarking on the proposal deputy dean (academics), Delhi University, Sangit Ragi said, ‘This kind of proposal is obviously impractical. Delhi University is a central university and it does not matter if it is funded by the Delhi government or any other institution. Diversity from all over the country is one of the highlighting features of our university. The university cannot discriminate against its students on the basis of where they come from.’
Commenting on the subject, vice chancellor of the state-run Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha (IP) University, Anup S Beniwal said, ‘There is a certain mandate for professional institutions. The population in Delhi is burgeoning and there certainly will be such demands for reservations. Every year, there is a lot of pressure on the educational institutions for such reservations. However, in order to curb the exodus of students from the city we have reserved around 85 per cent seats for local Delhi institutions in our university.’
Mitia Nath, assistant professor at Khalsa College, said these proposals are nothing but populist measures. She said that such reservation makes little sense as a lot of students, especially from the eastern parts of India, look forward to studying at Delhi University, which holds an aspirational value for them. The reservation will simply deny them that option. She also said the sane approach to address the issue would be to increase the number of colleges in the city.