“It is a very big thing if you are from a reserved category and get a faculty seat in Delhi University,” Manish Kumar, the head of the political-science department at Swami Shraddhanand College, said. Kumar was one of the thousands of attendees at a massive protest rally on 31 January in the national capital. Organised by the Bhim Army, an Ambedkarite organisation, the rally opposed the imposition of what is popularly being called the 13-point roster— a new method to appoint teaching faculty which will significantly reduce seats for candidates from the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class communities across the the country. On 22 January this year, the Supreme Court had dismissed a special leave petition against this system.
Students, teachers and workers from various political parties marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi, to demand that this system be scrapped. The protestors also demanded that the central government pass a bill to reinstate the previous system, commonly referred to as the 200-point roster. “Check the DU posts,” Kumar told me, adding that even under the previous system, reserved seats never totalled 49 percent, the stipulated limit under the Constitution. “If this is the condition in Delhi University, imagine the state of the others,” Kumar said. “And the courts aren’t on our side. This is just sad.”
In April 2017, the Allahabad high court passed a judgment that ordered changes in the methodology for calculation of reservation in faculty positions in higher-education institutes. At the time, the 200-point roster was followed, which considered a college or university as one unit for calculating the number of reserved seats—out of 200 posts, 101 would go unreserved while the remaining 99 split among SC, ST and OBC candidates. But the high court ruled that each department in a university or college should be considered as a separate unit.
Then, in March 2018, the University Grants Commission, the official body charged with maintaining standards in Indian higher education, issued a notice to all central universities and state-funded universities which announced a new system that had been developed to comply with the high court’s order. The notice said that departments within universities would be seen as independent units.
Reservations in India are mandated to be 27 percent for OBC candidates, 15 percent for SC candidates and 7.5 percent for ST candidates—this roughly translates to every fourth seat being reserved for an OBC candidate, every seventh for an SC candidate and every fourteenth for an ST candidate. When the unit in consideration is large, reservation is easier to ensure. But under the new system, this calculation would apply to each department. In small enough units, reservation would not be implemented at all—for instance, in a department with six faculty positions, only one seat will be reserved for OBC candidates. ST candidates, by comparison, would not get any reservation in departments of less than 14 faculty members.