The Central Tribal University (CTU) in Andhra Pradesh is set to begin its first academic year on July 3. A promise of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the university was approved by the Union Cabinet in November last year, and currently, a campus is being built in Relli village in Vizianagaram district. Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had called CTU “a big boost to the education of tribal students”, and added that the university would provide them greater access to higher education.
Yet, the university currently provides only 7.5% reservation to the marginalised community – the same as every other central government institution in the country.
The reason? Reservation can only be increased by an Act of Parliament – and so far, the Parliament has not passed a bill to amend the Central Universities Act, 2009, in order to establish CTU.
Several activists and educationists have pointed out that the very purpose of setting up a tribal university would be lost if there are no provisions to ensure sufficient representation of tribal students – and have demanded allocation of 50% seats for tribal students at CTU. Civil society organisations have expressed fear that otherwise, general category students would end up getting more seats, with tribal students being confined only to the reservation quota of 7.5%.
“There must be additional reservation for tribal students in the university, otherwise what is the purpose of setting up a separate university? The purpose of the university is to improve access to education for tribal students,” said Andhra University Vice Chancellor G Nageswara Rao, who was made the mentor for CTU in January this year by the MHRD.
Nageswara Rao has spoken to MHRD officials, who have promised to include a clause for 50% reservation for tribal students before the bill is passed to established CTU he said.
However, going by what has been happening in the only other central tribal university in the country – Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) in Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh – activists are skeptical, and say it’s going to be a question of political will.
12 year fight for equity
CTU is being established in Relli village, Vizianagaram district, as provided under the Thirteenth Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. When the cabinet decision was announced in November 2018, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the university would start functioning in the year 2019-20 with 250 students, increasing to 4,000 students in seven years. The university will be offering two PG courses, two integrated degrees and four PG diploma courses in subjects like social work, chemistry, tourism and hospitality management, cybersecurity, computer applications and horticulture.
“The government has released funds, and land for the university has been sanctioned. We are working towards setting up the university with proper road connectivity, water supply and electricity. For now, Praveenya Institute of Marine Engineering in Vizianagaram district will be the transit campus where classes will be held for the next couple of years until work on the main campus in Relli village is completed,” Nageswara Rao said.
The admissions will be managed by Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU), in Madhya Pradesh. IGNTU is the only existing central tribal university, with CTU set to become the second one in the country.
“I’ve talked to the VC of IGNTU about the issue of reservations,” Nageswara Rao said, “But the situation is the same in IGNTU as well. The Vice Chancellor of IGNTU – who is also on the advisory committee of CTU – said that they have also been trying to increase the seat allocation for tribal students since the university was established in 2007, but have not been successful.”
The Powers of the University listed in the IGNTU Act include making “special provisions for the promotion of educational, economic interests and welfare of the members belonging to the Scheduled Tribes by providing adequate percentage of seats in the matters of admission, of posts in the matter of employment and other benefits.” Yet, the reservation policy has not been changed in the 12 years since IGNTU was established.
“Many organisations and activists have approached me about the issue. I’ve talked to officials in the MHRD about it. They told me that the tribal student quota in CTU can be raised only when such reservation policy is added to the university bill, which is yet to be passed,” Nageswara Rao said.
The universities that have 50% SC/ST reservation
But while IGNTU has not been successful in increasing reservations for the past 12 years, other universities that have been set up to help marginalised students have succeeded to do the same in the past.
Dr Dilip K Jauhar, Research Associate at the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies and Translation, University of Hyderabad, said, “In North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), Lucknow, 50% seats are reserved for SC/ST students. These universities were set up specially to promote the educational interests of members belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
Dr Dilip was a part of the movement that resisted the opposition to 50% SC/ST reservation in BBAU in 2002. “If you see the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University Act, 1994, the objectives of the university include paying ''special attention to the promotion of educational and economic interests and welfare of the people in general, and of members belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in particular, by providing adequate percentage of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.” Here, the word ‘adequate’ means over and beyond the norm of 7.5% reservation for ST and 15% for SC.”
“The first Academic Council implemented 50% reservation for SC/ST students in the university since its establishment in 1994. It was challenged in the Allahabad High Court by groups who were opposed to the policy. They claimed that it was only a proposal by the Academic Council which was not notified and passed in both Houses of the Parliament. Ultimately, it was passed and now it is the law to have 50% reservation for SC/ST in admissions,” said Dr Dilip.
“Because of use the word ‘adequate’ in the Act, it becomes indisputable that the reservation must be more than what is the norm,” he added. Dr Dilip also pointed to minority institutions like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Milia Islamia, where special provisions exist to ensure adequate seats for minorities.
“If a university or institution is being set up with the intention of promoting education among a particular community, then it is essential that the seats are properly allocated to students from that community. It is also important that there is sufficient representation of the community among teaching and non-teaching staff. Even the naming of the university should be done in a way that is representative of the community,” said Dr Dilip.
“It is up to the willpower of the existing government to ensure fair representation,” he said.
The last date for applying to CTU through the IGNTU website was May 16. The entrance exam will be conducted by IGNTU on June 1 and 2, and classes will commence from July 3, 2019.
“We have prepared the Detailed Project Report for the next 7 years, with plans of expanding the courses and student intake, and introducing PhD programs. The budget will be nearly Rs 1,000 crore. But for all of that to happen, the university bill must be passed in both houses of the parliament. MHRD officials have told me that it will be passed within a year, and the 50% reservation provision will have to be added to the bill before it is passed. If that happens, from the coming academic year we can have more seats allocated for tribal students,” said Nageswara Rao.