Are Indian institutes casting a negative light on minority groups?
By Annie Banerji
Just when you thought the reputation of India’s higher education sector couldn’t get worse, two recent developments regarding scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST) cast doubt on the approach of a few of New Delhi’s academic institutions.
In one case, two Delhi University officials have been arrested for supplying fake caste/tribe certificates to students for admission to colleges. In another case, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, a branch of one of the most prestigious engineering and technology oriented institutes of higher education in India, has proposed to dish out “etiquette lessons” for its freshman SC/ST students.
The arrest of two permanent employees of Delhi University’s Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) cell came after a 26-year-old man allegedly managed to secure admissions for a dozen students in eight colleges this admission season.
His “educational consultancy firm” guaranteed admission to renowned colleges in the university by providing forged caste certificates for which he charged exorbitant amounts.
Delhi University reserves 22.5 percent seats for candidates who belong to the SC/ST category, recognised as minority groups by the Constitution of India. This reserved provision allows the relaxation of 5 percent on the minimum required qualifying marks.
In another embarrassing development, IIT Delhi, which eases 10 percent in the admission criteria for SC/ST category students, has devised a ‘self-enrichment programme’ for its SC/ST freshman batch, a move that suggests a distinction between two sets of students on the sole basis of caste.
“A campus is a symbol of assimilation of many minds and several lives. To carve out a group on the basis of their origins and put them through a training programme — I would term it nothing short of apartheid,” a faculty member of the institute was quoted as saying.
Conversely, the IIT Delhi director told an English daily that the notice was worded inaptly. “There is something amiss in the notice. The classes are meant for all students from rural backgrounds – and not just for SC/ST students – and were conducted last year too,” Surendra Prasad clarified.
These fiascos have not only helped in tainting the reputation of these premier academies, but have also placed scheduled castes and scheduled tribes on the line for no fault of their own.
The reserved seats in higher education are gibed by many general category aspirants as they feel they miss out on opportunities because of these conditions. Such instances may have widened a chasm that has always been sensitive to begin with.