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The math problem in faculty reservation

The faulty 13-point roster can be easily corrected to ensure the constitutionally mandated quota

The recent notification of the University Grants Commission (UGC), in response to an Allahabad High Court judgment of April 2017, directing all the universities and colleges to implement the reservation policy by treating the department or subject as a unit rather than the university or college has received strong opposition. When the department is taken as a unit, then at least one appointment from each reserved category will be made only when a minimum of 14 appointments are made (known as the 13-point roster). However, when the university or college is taken as a unit, every reserved category gets the earmarked percentage of reservation when a minimum of 200 appointments are made (known as the 200-point roster). The advantage of the 200-point roster over the 13-point roster is that deficit in reservation in one department is compensated by other departments.

Delhi University as a case study

In order to study the impact of this decision on deprived sections, let’s take the example of Delhi University (DU). The 13-point roster was implemented in DU only in 1997 to provide reservation to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) with the following specifications: the first six posts were to be kept unreserved, the 7th post was to be reserved for a SC, and the 14th post for a ST. After the completion of one full cycle, the same cycle was repeated. Later, in 2007, in order to accommodate 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), every fourth seat was kept reserved for OBCs in the same roster (see table).

It is clear from column 3 that even after completing a full cycle, reservation reaches a highest level of only 35.7%, which is short of the constitutionally mandated 49.5%. Further, if the size of the department is below 14, it widens the gap between the constitutionally mandated percentage of reservation and the actually realised percentage.

The faulty roster was made on the basis of dividing 100 by the percentage of reservation given to any reserved group. Since reservation for OBCs is 27%, the community would be given every 4th position (100/27=3.7, or 4th position), while a SC (100/15=6.7, or 7th position) and a ST (100/7.5=13.3, or 14th position) would be given the 7th and 14th positions, respectively. It is clear from columns 2 and 3 that despite the constitutionally mandated 49.5%, people belonging to the reserved categories were getting only five out of 14 positions (35.71% reservation).

This is because of the fallacy of composition. Had the roster for reserved positions been made taking all the reserved categories together (49.5% or approximately 50%), every 2nd position (100/49.5=2nd position) would have been reserved, which could later be distributed within all the reserved categories according to their respective reservation, i.e. OBC 27%, SC 15% and ST 7.5%. We can see in columns 4 and 5 that reservation could have been given without breaching the 50% cap laid down by the Supreme Court for unreserved posts if every even number position was kept reserved in the 13-point roster.

However, a mathematical juggling has been used by the policymakers to reduce the constitutionally mandated reservation for the deprived sections. Moreover, this faulty roster denies even a single representation from the deprived sections in smaller departments, such as Sanskrit or Environment Science, where a maximum of three teachers are required. For instance, let us assume that three teachers are required in the Sanskrit department in all the nearly 70 colleges of DU. Then, at least 210 teachers of Sanskrit will be appointed, without even a single teacher from any reserved category making it.

Denial of reservation is not new

If we look at the history of implementation of the reservation policy in DU and other Central institutions, there have always been some efforts to evade the policy, irrespective of the political party in power. Almost 50 years of delay in implementation of the reservation policy came along with a faulty 13-point roster. Even this late and poor implementation has not deterred the authorities from denying reservation to many eligible candidates by labelling them ‘not found suitable’. To evade reservation, authorities have often changed their tactics. The reservation policy was misinterpreted. Reservation was provided only at the level of Assistant Professor and denied at the levels of Associate Professor and Professor. As a result, most of the advertisements for teaching positions had a proportionately higher number of positions for Associate Professors and Professors rather than for Assistant Professors. Then the authorities took another stand to evade reservation, which was in the form of rolling advertisements, where the number of posts reserved in any department is not earmarked. In fact, the idea was to not provide any reservation in a department where applications from the reserved category had been received. It was easy to do so, since the reserved positions were to be earmarked only after receiving the applications.

All these manipulations have resulted in meagre representation of reserved categories in all Central universities. The UGC Annual Report 2016-17 shows that the representation of SCs, STs and OBCs at the highest level of teaching position (Professor) in all Central universities excluding colleges is just 3.2%, 1.1% and 1.1%, respectively. If we observe closely, we find that the representation of these deprived sections is also poor at the lower levels of teaching positions (Associate Professor and Assistant Professor), where their combined representation is just 7.8% and 32.1%, respectively.

The apprehension of reserved categories is not baseless if we look at the advertisements of faculty positions post the UGC letter dated March 5, 2018, by various Central universities. For instance, the advertisement of IGNTU (Amarkantak) gives only one seat to SCs/STs/OBCs out of 52, while CUTN (Thiruvarur) has given only two seats out of 65.

Thus, we see that students and teachers belonging to the reserved categories are not opposing the 13-point roster itself but its flaws, which are reflected in the recent advertisements and also in the UGC report. Even the apprehension of the Supreme Court that the 200-point roster could result in some departments/subjects having all the reserved candidates and some having only unreserved candidates can easily be addressed by reordering it: Give every second position to the reserved categories while maintaining the internal sequence of reserved positions intact (except the 100th position which shall be kept unreserved to restrict reservation to 49.5%).

Anish Gupta teaches at Delhi University. Views are personal

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 3:20:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-math-problem-in-faculty-reservation/article24156695.ece

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