This year, we have a new reservation in IITs. 14% of seats are reserved for women candidates in each program, in each IIT, and in each class/category of seats. Last year, I wrote this blog where I have supported increasing the number of women students in IITs, though I had hoped that IITs will look at ways other than reservation too to achieve this.
IITs have been making periodic announcements about this reservation, but have been quite secretive about how it will be implemented. Finally, on the Joint Seat Allocation Authority (JoSAA) website, they have added a link to what they intend to do. It appears that they intend to do 14% reservation in NITs and other CFTIs as well, which is good, since if you do reservation in more sought after institutes, then the next level institutes will suddenly see a significant drop in women numbers.
The seat matrix has been decided by ensuring that the number of seats filled by non-females last year does not reduce. To me, what that means is the following. If we had 90 seats in a program, only 8 of them were women last year, they would ensure that this year there are 82 gender-neutral seats and as many seats will be declared as women seats as to form a 14% reservation. In this example, the number of women seats would be either 13 or 14 (depending on how you round off), and thus the total seats would have gone up from 90 to 95-96.
Now, they are saying that when they start filling up seats, a women will be given a women seat if there is one available in the program of her choice. And only if all women seats are full and the gender-neutral seat is available, then that seat will be given to the women candidate.
There are some problems with the way women quota is being implemented. First of all, the document says that whatever they are doing is not reservation. I am amazed at the capability of our academic leadership to give spin to something as obvious as reservation. You have a minimum 14 percent seats for women in every program in every IIT and in every category, and yet, this is not to be called reservation, simply because in case of SC/ST/OBC reservation, if a candidate can get both an unreserved seat and a reserved seat of the same program, then s/he is given an unreserved seat, and in case of women, she will be given a reserved seat. While they have given an example where this will make a large difference in the allocation, in reality, it will make close to ZERO difference in allocation. And in any case, one kind of reservation is N% reservation plus whoever can get in unreserved, and the other kind of reservation is minimum N% reservation. How is it not a reservation at all.
The second thing I notice is that some programs have more than 14% women seats. For example, IIT Mandi, Civil Engineering has 40 seats out of which 8 seats are for women. That is 20% reservation. There is no explanation for this on the site. So, if you actually look at the total women quota, it is more than 14 percent with no explanation. IIT JEE must come clean on this and announce why the reservation is more than 14% in some programs.
Now, let us look at what was the goal of these reservations. The goal was that once we have many women in IITs, it will encourage even more women to apply, more parents to invest in coaching, and so on, and eventually, we would see so many women coming to IITs that we can then remove this quota as they would anyway be more than the minimum desired number. The reservation will increase from 14% in 2018 to 17% in 2019 and then to 20% in 2020. The hope is that in a few years, we will anyway have 20% or more women in our classes without reservation.
Suppose, we had had more than 14% women in the top ranks in all categories this year. What would have been the most desired way to do seat allocation. It is obvious that the best way to do that would have been to make no reservation, don't increase any seats, and with the existing seat allocation process, enough women would have been admitted to each IIT. Does the process given on the JoSSA website achieve that. NO. It will still increase the number of seats. Ideally, the number of additional seats created should be dependent on how females and non-females have performed this year. If females have performed excellently and have 14% or higher share of top ranks, then no seat needs to be created. If they are 13%, only a few seats need to be created, etc. But that is not how they operate.
On the other hand, suppose the men had performed much better this year. Instead of 91% in top 10,000 ranks last year (just an estimate, not a real number), suppose they are 92% in top 10,000 ranks this year, then fairness would demand that 1 percent additional men be given seats (and increase the women seats correspondingly to give them 14 percent). But no, irrespective of how well the men perform, they are stuck to the 2017 admission numbers at best. And they are still saying that this is not reservation for women.
I am told that the reason to freeze the upper limit of non-female seats and declaring exact number of female seats was because many Directors wanted to know exactly how many admissions will take place in their IIT so that they can plan things better. Now, if look at the variation of men versus women from year to year, it can be, say, about 2 percent. So the variability is not too high. If the Directors are saying that they will want to do the wrong thing so that they don't have to deal with even a small variability in admission numbers, it is sad.
There are programs in which women are discouraged as per law. For example, women are not allowed to work in underground mines at all, and in overground mines in the night. As a result, mining is not a discipline that will attract women. Could we reduce the number of women seats in mining and increase the number of women seats in other disciplines in the same institute so that the institute can still have 14 percent women students.
The other issue about women reservation is why not in graduate programs. Many MTech programs also do not have 14 percent women even though the colleges from where we attract our MTech students had more than 14 percent women in their udner-graduate classes. Are we going to do only those things for which we get a letter from MHRD.
Assuming reservation is the only way to go about increasing the number of women in classroom, we can still make the implementation better, if there is a will.
Added on 19th June:
I am told that the algorithm is that the programs which had 14% or less women last year would have 14% reservation. Programs that had 14% to 20% women last year would have a reservation same as the number last year. And programs that had more than 20% women last year would have 20% reservation this year.
This does not make sense to me. If there are two programs of 50 students each. In Program X, we had 2 women, and in Program Y, we had 10 women. This year, we will take Program X and make its strength go upto 56 so that we can have 8 seats reserved for women. Should we keep 10 seats reserved in Program Y. Or should we say that in Program Y, there will be 7 seats reserved for women is the question.
In my opinion, the Program 2 should have only 7 seats reserved, since if it is a program not so popular with men and popular with women, in any case, they can get 10 seats on merit. But if because of reservation in Program X, some women who were joining Program Y move to Program X, then there is no reason to reserve those seats for women. A 14 percent reservation should mean a 14 percent reservation in every program.
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