UGC removes draft guidelines on de-reservation of posts after activists condemn move

Chapter ten in the UGC’s final draft of the guidelines titled ‘De-reservation’ proposed that posts reserved for SC/ST/OBC candidates can be de-reserved in “rare and exceptional cases”.
UGC sign board
UGC sign board
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The final draft of the Guidelines for Implementation of the Reservation Policy of the Government of India in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) has been taken down by the University Grants Commission (UGC) following a major uproar over the de-reserving of seats allocated for Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates. Both the UGC and the Union government issued clarifications that centrally-funded universities will not de-reserve any reserved faculty positions and that it was a ‘draft’ of the guidelines.

Chapter 10 in the final draft of the guidelines titled ‘De-reservation’ proposed that posts reserved for SC/ST/OBC candidates can be de-reserved in “rare and exceptional cases”. Several student organisations, activists, and political parties condemned this move, following which clarifications were issued. The draft was put in the public domain for feedback from stakeholders from November 2023, but it came to public notice only recently.

What did the final draft say

Stating that there is a general ban on de-reservation of reserved vacancies in case of direct recruitment, the draft proposed that when vacancies in Group A (highest ranking posts) cannot be allowed to remain vacant in public interest, the University concerned may prepare a proposal for de-reservation of the vacancy by providing information such as efforts made to fill up the post, reasons why it cannot be allowed to remain vacant, and justification for de-reservation.

While the proposal for Groups A and B, which are the highest paying jobs, should be submitted directly to the Ministry of Education, those for Group C or D should go to the Executive Council of the University. In case of promotion, if the number of SC/ST candidates “fit for promotion" in the reserved vacancies is insufficient, the posts can be de-reserved, the draft said.

‘Irony that policy for reservation talks about de-reservation’

Speaking to TNM, assistant professor of Politics at Jadavpur University Subhajit Naskar pointed out that it was ironic that a report titled ‘Guidelines for Implementation of the Reservation Policy’ went on to devise a plan to de-reserve posts. “The guideline was supposed to find ways to implement reservation. However, they have done the opposite. WIth the increasing problems faced by SC/ST/OBC faculty and research scholars, this guideline should have talked about a mechanism to deal with how the UGC will be countering and monitoring wherever there is non-compliance of reservation rules,” he said.

He also added that it was a move to turn education institutions into “agraharams” or Brahminical academic spaces.

S Naresh, president of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) in the University of Hyderabad, said that the question of the guidelines being unconstitutional was only secondary, and that the primary thing to note was the intentional attempt to bring in de-reservation as a policy. “This is a deliberate attempt to test waters to see if we will react or not. This was the final draft and they sought feedback for it. They might have thought people would not notice and they can bring it,” he said. Naresh also questioned how a document with unconstitutional clauses can be published in the first place. 

He further said that the seventh chapter of the draft guidelines “did not even make any logical sense”. The chapter talks about determination of reservation quota and goes on to differentiate between ‘shortfall’ and ‘backlog’ in vacancies. It states that if there are a total of 1000 posts that are to be filled by direct recruitment across India by open competition, the number of employees appointed by reservation in the cadre should be 150 for SC, 75 for ST, and 270 for OBC when all the posts are filled.

“The next line says that if all the 1000 seats are filled but there is a shortage in the reserved category, then it is a shortfall. My question is how can all the seats be filled when there is a simultaneous shortage of reserved candidates? This is against UGC rules and several court orders. According to the UGC, if you can’t fill reserved seats, then you have to go for a special admission drive. If you still can’t fill the vacancies, then you will have to devise a special mechanism,” he said.

The ASA, in its representation to the UGC, said that the rationale for the introduction of the provision for de-reservation was unclear. Stating that data from the Department of Personnel and Training show that the percentage of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Group A jobs are as low as 10.35% and 2.97% respectively, well below the prescribed representation of 15% and 7.5%, they said, “UGC must have prescribed guidelines to increase SC/ST/OBC representation in these jobs. Rather, it has prescribed provisions that would further decrease their representation. This is puzzling and completely violates the spirit of affirmative action in India.”

They also said that the guidelines were “arbitrary” and could endanger the “entire structure of the reservation system”.

“[ASA] urges UGC to drop the de-reservation provision immediately from the draft and include measures to enforce the strict and complete implementation of reservation policy in higher education institutes,” the statement read.


The Ministry of Education, on January 28, said that no reserved posts will be de-reserved and it will be applicable to all Central universities. "Reservation in Central Educational Institutions (CEI) is provided for all posts in direct recruitment in teacher’s cadre as per the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019. After enactment of this Act, no reserved post is to be de-reserved,” the ministry said. The ministry said that the directives have been given to all the CEIs to fill up the vacancies strictly as per the 2019 ACT. 

"This is to clarify that there has been no de-reservation of reserved category positions in Central Educational Institutions (CEI) in the past and there is going to be no such de-reservation. It is important for all HEIs to ensure that all backlog positions in reserved category are filled up through concerted efforts," UGC Chairman M Jagadesh Kumar said. Jagadesh had also told The Indian Express that the document was just a draft. “Anything related to de-reservation will be taken out of it while making the final document,” he said.

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