Updated: March 30, 2022 12:12:12 pm
Last week, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan urged the Lok Sabha to collectively debate and decide whether the MP quota in Kendriya Vidyalaya admissions should continue or be scrapped. Following his appeal, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla had suggested that there could be an all-party meeting to deliberate over the matter.
We explain what the MP quota is and why the government is building a case for scrapping it.
What are the Kendriya Vidyalayas?
To understand the issue, we must first understand what Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) are.
Earlier known as ‘Central Schools’, these are institutions administered and run by the Ministry of Education (MoE). They were started in 1963 on the recommendation of the Second Central Pay Commission for the children of transferable Central government employees, including Defence and paramilitary personnel. The objective was to ensure that the education of these children does not get hampered on account of frequent transfer of their parents. Currently, there are about 1,200 KVs in the country. A KV seat is considered coveted since these schools offer subsidised quality education and have maintained an excellent academic track record, especially in the CBSE Board results.
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What is the MP quota in KV admissions and why was it introduced?
The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), the autonomous body under MoE that manages the schools, introduced a special scheme in 1975 allowing a fixed quota of admissions to each member of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This was a means to give more discretionary powers to MPs to help them serve their constituents in a better way.
An MP can refer students for admission against this quota, but these recommendations are limited from Classes 1 to 9, and children whose parents belong to the member’s constituency. The MP quota has undergone several changes, including being discontinued on at least two occasions. Earlier, an MP could recommend two admissions in an academic year, which was increased to five in 2011, six in 2012, and 10 in 2016. Currently, with 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 245 in the Rajya Sabha, 7,880 admissions are possible against this quota every year.
Apart from the MP quota, a separate “discretionary” quota allowed the Education Minister (earlier known as the Human Resources Development Minister) to recommend 450 students for admission in each academic year. Much like the MP quota, the discretionary quota, too, has also undergone several changes, before being abolished last year by Pradhan.
How do admissions take place under the MP quota?
Every MP sends a coupon to the KVS and MoE from his/her office with details of the child and parents, such as a postal address, phone number, and email address. The list of shortlisted candidates is put up on the KVS website. After a student’s name appears on the list, the formal admission process begins. Students or their parents have to take a print-out of the coupon with other relevant documents, such as birth certificates, address proofs, transfer certificates, etc., and submit them to the school. The fee challan is then raised and once paid, he/she is formally admitted to the school.
Why have governments tried to scrap the quotas?
Admissions against both the aforesaid quotas are above the sanctioned seat strength across all KVs. Over the years, admissions have often exceeded the quota size since MPs and Ministers receive several requests, many of which, they claim, are hard to turn down. For instance, in 2018-19, 8,164 students were admitted against the sanctioned strength of 7,880 and 9,402 students were taken in against the Education Minister’s quota of 450. Governments have argued that the excess admissions distort the student-teacher ratio in these schools and deprive meritorious students of an opportunity to study in a Kendriya Vidyalaya.
However, attempts to scrap the quotas have often run into a wall with MPs prevailing over the government to retain it. The MP quota was first scrapped in 1997 but reintroduced soon after in 1998 following the order of Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Human Resource Development Minister.
In March 2010, under the UPA-2 government, the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had suspended both the quotas. However, he, too, had to give into political pressure, and not only did he reinstate the MP quota, but also increased the size in 2011 and 2012.
However, the Education Minister’s quota remained abolished until Smriti Irani took charge as the HRD Minister. The NDA government also increased the size of the MP quota from six to ten admissions each year in 2016. In August 2021, the incumbent Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan scrapped his discretionary quota of 450 admissions.
Why is the MP quota back in the news?
This discretionary power of the MPs is under the spotlight after the issue was raised by Congress MP Manish Tewari during the ongoing Parliament session. Tewari had argued that the ten-seat quota is not enough for an MP who is forced to turn down a large number of applicants and face public anger.
“Each of us represents 15-20 lakh people and each constituency has at least 35-40 lakh people…I want to humbly submit that it creates a lot of inconvenience for us. Because those who are denied get angry with us. I have a request: either you enhance the quota from 10 to 50 or do away with it,” he had said.
Pradhan, in turn, went on to suggest that the government can work towards scrapping the quota if the House agrees. “We are people’s representatives. We are not representatives of a few,” the Minister had said. Following this, Speaker Om Birla had suggested an all-party meeting to decide over the issue. On Friday, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi had moved a zero-hour notice in the Rajya Sabha in favour of withdrawal of the MP quota.
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