As reservation for backward category students rises in the Indian Institutes of Technology, competition among them has also stepped up. In fact, of the 3.95 lakh applications that the IITs received from aspirants wanting to take the Joint Entrance Exam in April, close to 40% candidates – 1.55 lakh – belong to the reserved categories. In 2007, a year before the IITs implemented the first phase of the 9% reservation for the Other Backward Caste category, 45,000 OBC students had applied to take the JEE. This year, more than 98,000 OBC candidates – 26% of all aspirants – will take the JEE.
Bhaba Sarma, JEE chairman at IIT-Guwahati, which is the organising institute for this year's exam, said, 'About 75% of the OBC applicants belong to the non-creamy layers. But this is preliminary data. We are yet to go through 16,000 more applications received online.' This year, the seven old IITs will set aside 18% seats for OBC candidates, and the eight new ones will have 27% reservation for them. IIT sources said the number of OBC applicants has gone up dramatically with the government raising the income ceiling for non-creamy candidates from INR 2.5 lakh to INR 4.5 lakh.