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New Delhi: The recently released list of selected candidates for PhD admission for the Department of History by the Delhi University (DU) has drawn serious allegations of being “arbitrary”, “non-transparent” and allegedly “discriminative” towards Schedule Castes (SCs), Schedule Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Out of the advertised 30 seats, the department has admitted only 25 students through entrance exams and interviews, excluding the three supernumerary seats.
Supernumerary seats are over and above the sanctioned intake as approved by the appropriate authority, from time to time. As per the list, 30 seats for PhD admission in History were advertised, but only 25 seats have been filled, and five were left vacant in the “absence of qualified candidates”.
“All we want is transparency in the admission process, which is the most important bulwark against the prevailing culture of caste violence in academia,” said Sachin Narayan, a faculty member at DU, fearing discrimination against marginalised candidates in the admission procedure.
This year’s final list, which was released on January 12, starkly omits the category and evaluation-related details of the selected candidates and has been released without the conventional waiting list for the students, raising questions of “academic corruption” and “bias”.
However, a DU professor, who is involved in the admission process, told The Wire on the condition of anonymity that all the SC and ST seats have been filled in the department. However, seats for the OBC, Unreserved (UR), Economically Weaker Section (EWS) have been left vacant as the candidates could not fulfil the minimum criteria set by the University.
“The shortage of students after the shortlisting process and the very high minimum criteria pertaining to specialisation set by the university is the reason behind leaving these five seats vacant,” said the professor.
Another professor, also requesting anonymity, said, “The admission and the declaration of results [for the History department] were done as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) and University guidelines as well as past precedents and Department Research Committee resolutions. If the University allows for the second round of admissions for the vacant seats, the leftover seats would be accordingly filled as done in the past.”
On the other hand, the English department of DU on January 14 has released the PhD admission list along with the conventional category-wise waiting lists. The list clearly specifies the social category, qualifying category and total marks of the selected candidates while following the same UGC and university guidelines.
The history department notification for admissions to PhD programme has also come under serious attack by its critics for being “inconsistent” with the final list.
“The notification clearly specifies the number of seats for each category which are the ‘minimum seats’ required as per the new UGC guidelines, stipulating the number of students under each professor. However, the final list is devoid of any such demarcation despite advertising category seats in the notification and under-admitting students,” Narayan explained.
He further pointed out the “bizarre” clause of the notification stating that the “department is not obliged to fill these seats in the absence of deserving candidates,” which in his opinion is not possible.
“Thousands of students, including the students doing their post-graduation from DU, apply for these seats, which in the case of central universities sometimes even becomes 100 times the total number of seats…How come you can’t find deserving candidates? I can guarantee you at least 20% of them would have scored more than 60%,” he said.
The discrimination controversy is not really new
According to a recent report, students from the marginalised communities are being denied university admissions and employment across the country in the garb of the controversial and non-transparent NFS (none found suitable) clause.
In 2017, after several complaints and court cases, a parliamentary committee instructed the university to ensure that the clause of NFS may not be misused and the latter must issue guidelines over its usage which are yet to be framed.
A similar controversy erupted at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in December, where students from the marginalised backgrounds were allotted single-digit scores in their PhD viva exams across different centres, allegedly highlighting how a process of ‘reverse reservation’ works to the advantage of ‘upper’ caste candidates.
As per another report published last month, even after five years of a parliamentary committee circular ordering the filling up of around 4,500 backlog posts belonging to SC, ST and OBC in DU, the recommendation is yet to be implemented. Out of the total sanctioned strength of 264 professors, it has only three SC professors and none from the ST backgrounds.
Sunil Kumar Mandival and Taha Yasin, faculty members at the University of Delhi, along with the aggrieved students have demanded immediate corrective intervention and transparency about the category details and marks secured by each of the selected candidates from the authorities on the matter. Until then, the results must be kept on hold, they demanded.
Narayan, while supporting the demand for a transparent clarification and adherence to constitutional provision of reservation in admission, expressed concerns that such “non-transparent” practices may become the norm in other departments soon, hurting the weakest sections of the society.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming days, if we don’t demand corrective measures and transparency in the admission process, almost all other major and smaller departments will adopt such unjust, non-transparent practices,” he said.