After the Maharashtra SSC Board Examination results were announced on July 29, the process of admitting students into junior colleges across the state started on August 30.
However, before the final list of students to be admitted into various colleges could be announced, a stay order on a case pertaining to socially and economically backward castes (SEBC) till further notice from the Supreme Court (SC), led to the stalling of First Year Junior College (FYJC or equivalent to Class XI) admission of close to 300,000 students across Maharashtra.
The state government has said that admissions cannot be completed till the SC takes a final decision on this matter.
Meanwhile, FYJC aspirants have sent petitions to the state government, seeking resumption of admissions and sought that classes be at least started online. Moneycontrol gives you a lowdown on what has happened in the matter so far and how it impacts students:
What is the Maratha reservation issue?
In November 2018, the then Maharashtra government, headed by Devendra Fadnavis, passed a legislation offering 16 percent reservation for the Maratha community in jobs and higher educational institutions.
However, in June 2019, the Bombay High Court clarified that while this reservation is constitutionally valid, the quantum of reserved seats has to be reduced to 12-13 percent for education and jobs, respectively, from 16 percent. This was in response to a slew of petitions questioning the validity of this reservation.
In 2020, a few other petitions were filed in the SC, challenging the reservation to Marathas.
Later, on September 9, a three-member bench of the SC stayed this legislation and referred the matter to a larger Constitutional bench. Meanwhile, groups like the Maratha Kranti Morcha held protests across Mumbai seeking continuation of reservation.
So, why can’t admissions be held?
The Maharashtra government has declared that only after the Maratha reservation matter is cleared by the apex court can there be any admission to the FYJC programmes.
The SC is likely to hear this matter in the last week of November. So admissions will only be conducted after that.
This matter affects junior college admissions, in particular, because these institutes are mandated to follow state government rules. For degree programmes, the rules of the University Grants Commission (UGC) apply.
The state government is of the view that conducting admissions without reservations would lead to a rise in agitation by the Maratha groups across Maharashtra. Mumbai and its outskirts itself has close to 850 colleges, and they will not be allowed to start classes till 75 percent seats are filled.
How do students get affected?
Students allege that the state government is purposely trying to delay admissions to ensure that they get a favourable court order.
“We have lost out almost six months in the academic session. Any further delay will only cost us dear. Also, students who may not have scored good marks will find it impossible to look for other alternatives,” said FYJC aspirant Sumant Patil.
Similarly, Thane’s Sanket Choudhary is worried that the syllabus may not be completed on time, and, hence, students could see a higher rate of failure.
“At the end of the day, colleges will put the burden on us. Not all of us can afford to study at private coaching centres. How will we be able to give tests to enter SYJC (equivalent to Class XII)?” he added.
General category students are also fuming that a rise in reservation would leave them with no seats.
B Krishamoorthy, who completed his Class X board exams with 90 percent, feels that students like him would be left out.
“Overall, reservations will now cross 50 percent if Maratha reservations are also included. How will general students who have performed well be able to get admission to a good college?” he added.
Institutes, on the other hand, say that the state government could have gone ahead with admissions without reservation.
The vice-principal of a South Mumbai-based college told Moneycontrol: “Agreed, it is a sensitive issue. But at least don't let students suffer. Honouring the SC judgement, admissions could have been completed by now sans reservation. Even classes would have started for junior colleges if the state government didn't delay the process."
It is unlikely that the process will resume prior to November 25-26 since the SC had postponed the hearing for four weeks in the last week of October. Till then, the uncertainty in admissions for FYJC will continue.