By Some Concerned Students and Citizens,
What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow! While in Bengal it has been a slogan of self-aggrandizement on the part of Bengali elite popularly known as bhadralok, this is something which we have heard quite often in the progressive intellectual circles outside the state. But we have taken it as an acknowledgement of the radical intellectual culture which the region has had. How this slogan gradually became a butt of joke and sarcasm, especially with the decline in the moral authority of dominant left as a result of unleashing violence against its own poor, is also a sad fact nonetheless.
Now replace “Bengal” in the slogan above with “Presidency”. You will find a smaller version of the same slogan in Calcutta/Kolkata: What Presidency thinks today Bengal/India will think tomorrow! This little slogan has also been like its bigger counterpart: for the presidency students, teachers and staff as well as city’s elite it has been a matter of self-pride and arrogance; for others the slogan was not bad per se. It has been widely acknowledged that the institution has nurtured brilliant and radical intellectual minds. The little slogan, just like the bigger one, may also be turned into its own travesty. Especially, in the wake of decline that has been seemingly creeping in the social content of this great elite institution now called Presidency University.
To be more specific, this institution could be seen to have been pushing a vicious agenda of social exclusion in its admission policy and yet there is no voice of protest from any quarter. Be it its radical students or teachers or the city’s intelligentsia. Forget protest, there has been a complete silence over the caste-based discrimination and exclusion in the name of protecting the “merit” and maintaining the elite status in the fraternity of academic institutions. Exclusion of SC, ST, OBC candidates is in the process of completion, at least for the coming academic year 2014-15. (Admissions are to take place on 15th and 16th July 2014.) This is not a matter which is difficult to notice. The admission notices, circulars and merit-list of the candidates, etc., all of which are available in public domain, testify that seats reserved for SC, ST, OBC candidates are being transferred to General candidates.
For example you see Merit List for BA Admission in the department of Sociology below. You will find sections for all categories: General, SC, ST, OBC-A and OBC-B in the merit list. However, you may see Mukherjees, Banerjees and Chakravartis in the SC and ST and OBC section of the merit list. In the right hand column, in such cases, you will see a letter (G). This (G) indicates the actual status of the candidate and it means that the respective reserve category seat has been transferred to General candidate. What you see in this case is apart from one SC seat, all other SC, ST and OBC-A&B seats are allotted to General category candidates. Sociology department’s list is just an example – although a glaring one. Things are same in English or History.
(Go to http://presidencyadmission.net/UG2014/MeritList_2014_PU/MeritList_2014_BA/BAMeritlists.htm, then click on SOCIOLOGY, or ENGLISH, or HISTORY, etc.)
Now, what is the basis of these acts (which, to us, appears to be acts of omission and commission) in the eyes of Presidency’s administration? University says that openly:
“The SC/ST and the OBC-A/OBC-B candidates will have to secure 75% and 90% of the total marks obtained by the last general candidate respectively, otherwise they will not be considered for admission from reserved quota (vide Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India Notification No. BC. 16014/1/82-SC&BCD.I dated 6th August 1984 and Department of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal Notification No. 07-Edn(U)/1U-89/13). The SC/ST and OBCA/OBCB candidates coming in the first merit list will be considered equivalent to candidates of general category and will not occupy the reserved quota.” (See p.2, Admission Notification (Undergraduate, 2014)
Go to http://presiuniv.ac.in/web/admission.php, click on Admission Notification (Undergraduate)
One can make easily make out what is causing transfer of SC, ST and OBC seats to General candidates. There is no fixed and independent cut off or minimum eligibility criteria for SC, ST and OBC students. They have to secure 75% (SC+ST) or 90% (OBC) of the last general category candidate. In other words, their selection is not only made dependent and fluctuating on the performance of General candidates. More embarrassingly, their “merit” of the reserve category students will be measured on the unstable scale set by the performance of last selected candidate in the General category list. To say the least, this is not only sheer misappropriation and subversion of the entire logic and rational of positive discrimination policy but also illegal. Clearly, however, the University Notification cites two regulations as the legal bases for such a policy. First one is 1986 GOI Notification. This appears spurious and suspicious for we know that entire discourse of political, constitutional and legal landscape on the question of caste-based positive discrimination in India underwent a sea change after 1986. And here is an institution in the state of West Bengal which cites a 1986 notification. The second basis is a West Bengal government notification of 2013(?). We have not been able to get hold of this notification. On the basis of its interpretation by Presidency administration and the consequent exclusion of the reserve category students the least can be said is the follwing. The alleged GOWB Notification, if judged from the latest legal and constitutional standing on the issue in the country, appears highly dubious and subversive of the socially inclusive agenda of education in the country to which West Bengal is no exception. In our limited knowledge what makes the act of Presidency administration more suspicious is that such explicit exclusion does not seem to be happening in the adjacent Jadavpur University or other government colleges of Calcutta University? Do they not follow the same circular of the West Bengal government? Is Presidency an exception? Reportedly, Presidency has been pursuing this admission policy since it became University!
If such is the state of affairs in Presidency, then why is this deafening silence in the politically charged and hypersensitive city of Kolkata? Why is there not even a voice of murmur in the radical student’s campuses of JNU, Jadavpur, and Presidency – campuses which claim to speak against reactionary politics across the globe? Why same battles against exclusion of depressed and backward social groups are to be fought legally and politically in each University of India? Why the similar battles won in a JNU or an Allahabad are to be repeated in yet another University? Many would argue that this is a calculated move on the part of Presidency’s bhadralok, who are trying to take “benefit of doubt”. Why this silence then? Some would say after all caste does not matter in Bengal! Hope, this epithet will be proven wrong.