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21 December, 2005 - Published 15:45 GMT
Education bill backs India's poor
The Indian government has introduced a bill in parliament to force private universities admit fixed numbers of students from traditionally disadvantaged low castes and tribes. The government wants to amend the constitution which already obliges state-supported colleges reserve places for the country's poorest communities. This report from Mark Dummett:
The congress-led government wants to extend affirmative action for the lowest members of India's hierarchical caste system to private universities. It wants the many independent business, technical and medical colleges to reserve places for students from the traditionally discriminated against and impoverished tribal communities and low castes, also known as Dalits or Untouchables. Government colleges already admit more than a fifth of their students from these groups.
To change the law, the government needs to amend India's constitution, where protection of the so-called scheduled castes and tribes is enshrined. It needs a two-thirds majority to do so, but the main opposition BJP Party, says it won't support the bill unless colleges run by religious minorities like the Muslims, are also included. Some private colleges are also opposed, saying they fear a drop in standards if the law is changed.
Mark Dummett, BBC News, Delhi.
to extend affirmative action
hierarchical caste system
to reserve places
traditionally discriminated against
impoverished tribal communities
it won't support the bill
fear a drop in standards
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