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Cutoffs vs quotas

In the heat of the campaign, AAP is raising the issue of quotas in Delhi colleges to local students who currently can’t get admission due to high cutoffs. But this is a travesty of facts

“Every year, college cutoff at 99% has become normal”, the video from Aam Aadmi Party says. It gives an example with the name of St Stephens College in the backdrop. “Every state,” its MP hopeful for Delhi adds, “in its universities gives children who have studied in the state a fixed quota, an average of 80%. But only in Delhi colleges we don’t have quota for the children”.

This bombastic statement may lead people to believe that no state-run Delhi college has quotas for local students. But it is just not true. Universities like Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and Netaji Subhas University of Technology offer 85% reservation for those having passed their 12th grade from the Capital.

What the video goes on to add later, though, makes sense and should perhaps be highlighted instead. “Especially as only the central government has the power to open new colleges in Delhi,” it says, the answer lies in obtaining full statehood for Delhi, after which more colleges could be opened.

AAP, the party in power in the Union Territory, had in its poll promise given an assurance of opening at least 20 colleges. This promise could not be kept, perhaps because affiliated colleges can be opened only with Delhi University.

Besides this, when we look at the current promise, neither the party nor the residents of the state are strangers to the fact that many policies and ideas have fallen short because of the Centre refuses to allow the Kejriwal government to implement its radical ideas.

Thus, when AAP in campaign mode rings up the people of Delhi, with the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleging that almost all seats in a particular college are being taken by students from Tamil Nadu, it makes one wonder which college he is talking about.

People from different regions come to Delhi to study in its premier Delhi University colleges and not the state administered ones. And presently, the DU Act under whose ambit the DU colleges come under are governed by the Central government. This means, statehood or not, the present law does not allow the state government to declare quota in a central administered college or university.

But do students understand that?

Taking note of the advertisement, we went to Netaji Shubhas Technology University which is an autonomous institution of the NCT government.

Bhaskar Gurnaney, a third year student of electronic and communication, says the AAP promises are not viable. “But some students will miss the point”, which means maybe the AAP’s gameplan is working.

What the gameplan is, one cannot be sure of but this is not the first time it has promised the 85% reservation: It did the same in 2017. An AAP MLA Patriot spoke with confirmed that the AAP was not promising reservation in central universities.

But its advertisements do not spell this out clearly enough for its target listeners, both students and their parents. Gurnaney and his friend Rudraksh Sharma are Delhi residents and for the most part believe they are “beneficiaries of the 85% quota system”.

Furthermore, even the question of statehood is something the students are too practical to believe. Rachit Tayal, an electronics and communications student, thinks the only way this would be possible is for the Centre and the state to come to a consensus on power sharing for Delhi.

And as far as reservation goes, Tayal says, “Most students don’t understand statehood and then the gamut of reservation which is just for the state-administered colleges”.

Rachna, a 4th year student of Instrumentation and Control Engineering, says that with placement opportunities, the state-run university in which she studies is a good option for Delhi students pursuing technology.

While she understands AAP’s promises lack a glimmer of truth, she also believes the party’s statement will be misconstrued by most voters.

An official we spoke with, who did not wish to be named, gave another suggestion. “There was an instance last year that this young girl from Bihar topped the 12th grade examinations. When she was asked what her favourite subject was, she said Home Science”. This, she says, is an example of how some students from different states cheat the system.

“I’m not saying all do, but many a times you’ll see that a child who has studied from Delhi and one who has studied from some other place will have different capabilities,” adding that Delhi students have generally received better quality of education compared to some other states of the country.

Which is why, a cut off is not the best way forward. “Instead,” she suggests, “DU must have entrance exams”.

The university where she works takes in students after considering their JEE ranks, which she says is the method the other universities must adopt to tackle the huge number of students from other states coming in.

Setting aside election rhetoric, any discussion of the admission crunch must take into consideration that the city is not like any other in the country because it is the Capital. This makes studying here an aspirational goal for students of different states.

Its diversity is what makes DU such a sought after destination for students from all over the country. And that would take a blow if there was any move to keep 80-85% seats for Delhi-based students.