Students from Other Backward Classes (OBCs) will get 27 per cent reservation in the prestigious national talent search examination (NTSE), which gives 1,000 students monthly scholarships from Class XI.
The government's decision comes ahead of the Gujarat elections, to be held on December 9 and 14. In the state, the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party is engaged in a poll battle with the Congress on various issues, including reservation for well-off communities in higher education institutes and government jobs.
The decision to introduce OBC quota
in NTSE caught many by surprise as the Centre had already announced a commission to examine the sub-categorisation of almost 5,000 castes on the central list of OBCs. Officials in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said the government had been considering this proposal for some time as some states were following a court case on this issue.
“The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court had asked the Central government to consider OBC quota
in NTSE a few years ago. Also the Central government’s move was inspired from the fact that some state such as Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have already provided OBC quota
in NTSE Stage-1,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.
The NTSE is conducted in two stages. Stage-1 is conducted by the state governments. Qualifying students attend the Stage-2 exam, conducted by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) under the guidance of the MHRD. The students are supposed to clear a mental ability test and a scholastic ability test in Stage-2. According to the NCERT website, those who clear the exam “get Rs 500 per month for all the students studying in Class XI onwards (irrespective of class /course) except for PhD, wherein it is paid according to the University Grants Commission norms.”
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government would implement the decision from the next year as the process for NTSE 2018 has started. “The government is actively considering to increase the number of scholarships from 1,000 to 2,000. Rates for scholarship has increased to ~1,250 for Class XI and Class XII, and ~2,000 for undergraduate and postgraduate students,” Javadekar said in a tweet.
The Union government had first launched this exam in 1963. It was then called the national science talent search scheme. The scheme was restricted to 10 students studying in the national capital. The next year, the scheme was extended to 350 Class XI students across states. In 1976, the scheme was extended to 500 students. “The number of scholarships was again enhanced from 500 to 550 in 1981. These 50 scholarships were exclusively meant for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates. The number of scholarships was once again escalated to 750 in 1983 with a provision of 70 scholarships, especially for SC/ST candidates. In 2000, the number of scholarships was raised from 750 to 1000 with the provision of reservation for SC and ST candidates based on the national norms of 15 per cent and 7½ per cent respectively,” according to the NCERT website. In 2008, the government made a provision of 3 per cent reservation for differently-abled students.