Minority status no longer at risk for small institutions


CHENNAI: The quashing of the 2018 State Government order that had mandated minority educational institutions to reserve 50 per cent of their seats may not have a major impact on bigger colleges, but for less popular institutions it is a huge relief. The State order had placed minority schools and colleges under risk of losing their minority status if they did not comply with it.

“Suppose we receive 2000 applications in a year, more than 1000 are from minority students. We never faced a problem of fewer minority students as it is a big college,” says M.F. Valan, Coordinator of the Office of Communications, Loyola College. B. Com is the most sought-after course in the premier college that attracts over 6000 applicants every year. However, for less popular courses like Applied History and French, it becomes difficult to maintain the 50 per cent threshold. “Unaided courses are a little expensive and not many people opt for it. If economically backward minorities ask for it, we give them means-cum-merit scholarships,” says Dr. F. Andrews, Principal, Loyola College.

In 2018, the Tamil Nadu government made it mandatory for minority institutions to reserve at least 50 per cent of their seats for the concerned minority, failing which they risked losing their minority status. A petition filed by the Institute of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary contested this order, arguing that Tamil Nadu has only 6.1 per cent Christian population and hence the order forced these institutions to follow an ‘impractical’ rule to retain their minority status. The order was stayed by the High Court in September 2018.

For second grade institutions, the order has come as a much-awaited relief. “How do we fill the 50per cent mandate when we do not even get sufficient applications. It is not practical,” says Dr. A. Joseph Durai, Principal of Patrician College of Arts and Science, a Christian minority college. Catholic representation in the college is only 15 per cent, even after admitting every application, the principal adds. With only 3100 seats, Electronic Media and Journalism courses have still have vacancies at the end of the academic year, which makes it difficult to meet the quota requirement.

While Loyola College has a number of self-aided scholarships to support economically backward students and religious minorities, Patrician College of Arts and Science is only able to provide government scholarships for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Citing the 2018 order unconstitutional, Justice T Raja said yesterday that the State Government did not have the power to pass such orders under the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004.
The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004, defines “Minority Educational Institution ” as ‘a college or an educational institution established and administered by a minority or minorities.’ and does not mention the number of minority seats reserved under any institution.

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