The University Grants Commission (UGC) recently issued an order allowing the de-reservation of seats allocated to SC, ST, and OBC categories in higher education, enabling them to be filled with candidates from the general category. Despite the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s assertion on X (formerly Twitter) that such actions will not be taken, there has been no official announcement from the UGC confirming the withdrawal of these guidelines.
In this background, the recently released All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) for the year 2021-22 sheds light on the worrying neglect of reserved seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) categories. The statistics reveal a substantial gap between the allocated jobs and the actual appointments in both teaching and non-teaching positions.
According to the report, there are 15,97,688 teachers in higher education institutions across the country. However, for the SC category, only 1,48,635 teachers are appointed, falling short by 91,018 seats. Similarly, the ST category faces a shortage of 78,159 teachers, with only 41,607 appointments out of the required 1,19,826.
Non-teaching positions also show a denial of reservation. Among the 12,08,446 non-teaching posts, the SC category has 1,81,876 positions and the ST category has 56,569 positions. Unfortunately, a significant number of these are in group D posts, indicating an unequal distribution.
While most higher education institutions are state-run, Central Universities, IITs, and IIMs under the Union government also have numerous vacancies. Responding to a parliamentary question raised by me on December 12, 2022, the Union Education Minister had assured that steps are being taken to fill the backlog vacancies and that a monitoring committee has been formed for monthly examinations. He emphasised that none of the reserved posts have been de-reserved since the enactment of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act in 2019.
However, significant gaps persist, such as unfilled posts in Central Universities, IITs, IIMs, and other institutions. The Minister acknowledged vacancies in reserved categories, which need corrective action.
Despite having the highest number of teachers in higher education institutions, Tamil Nadu faces challenges in properly filling reserved seats due to past policies. During the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) rule, SC and ST category reservations were not adequately implemented, leading to significant backlogs.
For SC category teaching posts, 13,579 vacancies exist, and only 23,993 teachers are appointed, leaving 13,579 posts unfilled. Similarly, for ST category teaching posts, only 553 out of 2,087 seats are filled. In non-teaching posts, there are 25,569 SC category positions, falling short by 2,278 as per the 18% reservation. It is the duty of the current Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government to rectify these disparities and uphold social justice.
As for the UGC order, the manner in which it was disseminated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government is typical, aiming to suppress public opposition through misinformation. It is crucial not to be deceived by this tactic. Our efforts should persist until the UGC formally withdraws its guidelines.
Dr D Ravikumar is a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) representing Villupuram constituency in Tamil Nadu.
Views expressed are the author’s own.