Special Correspondent

Apprise him of their individual positions on the question of reserving seats for OBCs in Central institutions

The Prime Minister only listened: Jayati GhoshMajority view within the Commission is that status quo should be maintained

NEW DELHI: Members of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Wednesday and apprised him of their individual positions on the contentious question of reserving seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in central educational institutions.

The reservation issue was just one of the subjects discussed at the meeting, described by members as a routine exercise. This is the fourth time the Commission met the Prime Minister after it was set up in September last year. "We meet the Prime Minister once in a while to report to him about the work we are doing," Commission member Jayati Ghosh told The Hindu .

Though the division within the eight-member Commission on the reservation issue is known, all members apprised the Prime Minister of their individual positions on the matter. "The Prime Minister only listened," said Ms. Ghosh and fellow-member Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

Ms. Ghosh and P.M. Bhargava are the two members on the Commission favouring the extension of reservation to OBCs. While Ms. Ghosh is for extending the existing policy of reservation to OBCs, Mr. Bhargava's support is subject to certain conditions. The majority view in the Commission is that status quo should be maintained till new and more effective avenues of affirmative action are explored.

Last weekend, the Commission met in Bangalore and discussed among other issues the question of extending reservation to OBCs. After the meeting, the NKC in a statement said that a "knowledge society must be a socially inclusive society and this social inclusion must be reflected in educational institutions."

Of the view that "this is a historic opportunity" to craft more effective policies to make educational institutions more socially inclusive, the majority view within the NKC favoured greater debate on the issue. "How we go about doing this [making educational institutions more socially inclusive] in a way that is compatible with the goals of a knowledge society is a difficult task and requires more social debate and careful thought," the NKC said in its statement while placing on record the divergent views of two members.

For a month now, the proposed move to extend reservation to central educational institutions including the Indian Institutes of Management and the Indian Institutes of Technology has been hanging fire. According to the Union Human Resource Development Ministry which spearheaded the proposal the Government was bound by the 93rd Constitution Amendment to provide OBC reservation in central educational institutions.

Officials in the Ministry said that only an enabling provision was being brought in to operationalise the amendment.

The proposed legislation neither mandates the quantum of reservation nor specifies which institutions it would be applicable in. "Since we have written to States asking them to operationalise the 93rd Amendment, the Centre is duty bound to do the same in its institutions. This is just a follow-up to that Amendment."