A PIL was filed on Thursday in the Supreme Court challenging the new quota law. The court will decide whether to admit the petition. But the central claim of the new reservation — 10 per cent of govt jobs and 10 per cent of higher education seats reserved for “economically weaker sections” in the general category — that it will empower the disadvantaged comes up against the reality of available opportunities in both public jobs and college and university capacity and quality. ET takes a look…
Premise I: The Government Job Pie Is Shrinking
If central govt jobs are taken as proxy for the general govt (states plus Centre) sector, the jobs scenario is not encouraging at all. There has been a drop of 20 per cent from the peak in 1995 till 2014.
1. Plus, share of public sector jobs in organised employment in India is coming down sharply. From a peak of over 71% in 1990-91, the share shrank to less than 60% in FY12, and is still falling
2. Also, as a parliamentary question during this govt’s term showed, between 2013 & 2015, there has been an 89% fall in direct recruitment in central govt ministries & departments
3. Not all govt vacancies are being filled up, to maintain the fiscal line
This means total govt jobs going forward will be much fewer than the potential pool of candidates for these jobs once the new quota kicks in
Premise II: India’s Higher Education Has Both A Supply & Quality Problem
India’s gross enrolment ratio — the number of college-going students vis-a-vis the total population in the 18-23 age group — in higher education is quite low by global standards. India’s GER is 25 while South Korea’s is 93 and China’s is 48. This means despite a steep increase in the number of higher education institutes responding to market demand, there’s still not adequate supply of seats even if, say, 20 per cent more Indians in 18-23 age group want to join colleges.
Plus, there’s a quality problem. In higher education, the rush for quality is usually in govt and govt-aided institutions, not just IITs and IIMs, but India’s better colleges. But almost all capacity addition in higher education has been in the private sector; 67.3 per cent students are in private institutes. But as experts have noted, quality in most of these is highly suspect. And the share of enrolment in general category students is falling in higher education. This means, many potential college students are simply opting out of studies because of lack of reasonable-quality education.
Without more capacity creation in better govt institutes and a sharp quality improvement in private sector, another education quota will mean little on the ground.