Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Karnataka: Congress government scraps ‘fixed quota’ provision of religious minority institutions

The Congress government in Karnataka has decided to remove the fixed quota for students from minority communities in their respective educational institutions established for the welfare of religious minorities. 

With this move, the state government has scrapped its earlier policy, in which the educational institutions seeking the ‘religious minority’ tag were required to provide a fixed number of seats for minority students belonging to the same community.

On March 16, the Department of Minority Welfare issued an order to delete the clause requiring educational institutions to admit a fixed percentage of students from minority communities. The proposal was approved in the Cabinet on March 12. 

The order announcing the policy change cited the 2011 Census to point out that the population of minorities in the state is low with a total of 96.01 lakh or 16.28% (78.94 lakh Muslims, 11.43 lakh Christians, 4.4 lakh Jains, 95,000 Buddhists, 28,000 Sikhs and 1,100 Parsis), creating difficulty for minority institutions to meet the fixed quota requirement.

“Because the population of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis is low, finding the required percentage of students for the declaration of religious minority educational institutions is difficult,” the state government officials argued. 

However, the order has drawn severe criticism as the grounds provided by the government to back the decision appears to be fundamentally flawed.

The major concern was that the non-minority students would numerically dominate  the minority institutions, defeating the purpose of minority status. 

Earlier, schools seeking minority tags had to provide a 25% quota for students belonging to that particular minority religion. 

Moreover, higher education institutions and technical and skill development institutions had to admit 50% students belonging to the minority religion they cater to. 

Another clause states that at least two-thirds of the members of the management running the institutions should belong to that minority religion. 

The government has justified the decision stating that the minority institutions are unable to comply with the criteria.

It was Naseer Ahmed, an MLC and CM Siddaramaiah’s political secretary, who initially brought up the issue by petitioning the government in December last year to redefine the conditions of declaring educational institutions as ‘religious minority institutions’. 

The order “will be applicable to existing and newly-established institutions, except medical colleges,” Secretary of Minority Welfare, Manoz Jain said.

“This is a clear misuse of Article 30 of the Constitution. The right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions was provided to them to promote the education of their own communities. The right to ‘administer’ does not include the right to maladministration. Abolishing the provision to reserve minimum seats for the children of their communities is a gross violation of the fundamental right,” Developmental educationist V P Niranjanaradhya said criticising the government’s move.

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