EARLIER this month, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh deftly avoided a crisis in Manipur University, over which he no longer has control. He prevented 700 tribal students from pulling out en masse by promising to intervene in the controversial job-and-admission reservation issue.
The All-Tribal Students’ Union Manipur and the MU Tribal Students’ Union had served an ultimatum threatening a mass exodus from March 1 if the university failed to follow the State norms of reservation rather than the Central University norm based on all-India population.
Half an hour before the ultimatum’s expiry, a letter signed by State chief secretary Jarnail Singh assured the tribal students that the Chief Minister would meet Union human resource Minister Arjun Singh to discuss the matter, following which the students withdrew their threat.
At the root of the problem is the notion of Manipur tribal being given short shrift in recruitment to the various posts opening up after the university became a Central body and was expanding at a phenomenal rate. The tribal student bodies claimed there were only three tribals out of 143 teaching staff and 38 tribals out of 322 non-teaching staff.
After upgradation to Central university status, recruitments for 21 posts for professor, 26 for readers and 23 for lecturers were made but not a single tribal was among the beneficiaries. Joshef Hmar, secretary, information and publicity for Atsum, said the current situation in MU was pathetic and as things stood today all doors for tribal aspirants were closed.
More importantly, despite tribal candidates faring better than non-tribals in some subjects, they had never been able to find a foothold as corruption and nepotism ensured they were rejected on specification grounds.
“Because of improved educational facilities, more tribals are crossing JRF, NET and PhDs but they are never able to get into MU because of tailor-made specifications that reject them before they can appear for interviews,” Joshef said. The university would advertise openly and widely but all candidates would be rejected on the ground of not meeting some specifications. All this could be righted if there was proper reservation, he added.
The tribal student bodies are clamouring to secure 32.42 per cent job reservation for the tribal population
Established in 1980, MU was converted to a Central one in 2005. Since then, it has been implementing a Central university’s norms. MU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ch Amuba said he had to follow the prescribed norms. The university has been instructed by the Ministry to strictly follow the Government of India’s reservation norms and the guidelines of the University Grants Commission in force from time to time. The guideline as applicable now is reservation of 15 per cent for Scheduled Castes and 7.5 per cent for the Schedule Tribe communities at the time of appointment for Group “A”, “C” and “D” posts.
This is what the student bodies find objectionable. Manipur has a tribal population of more than 30 per cent and so cannot be given 7.5 per cent reservation, they argue. The V-C has, however, been asked to go slow on a recent advertisement till the outcome of a meeting with the Union Minister and the Chief Minister’s delegation which is expected to also include representatives of the student bodies.
However, the demand raised by the tribal student bodies for amendment of the Manipur University Act 2005 to raise the reservation percentage is not going to be an easy one to push through. Joshef did not believe it would be a breeze but hopes the Centre would make some amendments.
Clearly, the trouble at MU is far from over.
The Sangai Express