Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that there was a need to expand the education sector. Replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on demand for grants for the HRD ministry, Sibal made a strong pitch for greater private investment and allowing foreign universities with necessary regulatory mechanism in the sector. The minister said expansion was necessary but the government's reservation policy had to be followed. If there is one legacy of his predecessor Arjun Singh that Sibal has been virtually silent about it is reservation for socially and educationally backwards. Sibal has been lukewarm to the idea of extending reservations in the private unaided educational institutes. The Bill to extend reservations to the private unaided institutes is pending though it has been vetted by a group of ministers in the previous UPA administration. Given that reservations for SCs, STs and OBCs are now required to be given by law in centrally education institutes, it would seem that the minister was now perhaps considering extending the same to the private unaided and foreign universities.
Sibal was reiterating the principal of national treatment. As per WTO obligations, national treatment is an accepted principle, where foreign players are treated on a par with domestic players. Any exception to the national treatment principle would have to be as a bilateral agreement with India, and this would be at the discretion of the Indian government. As part of his reply, the minister announced that the government would introduce Right To Education Bill in the current session of Parliament and plans to go in for an overarching body for regulating higher education. The minister said the required expansion would require investment from the private sector. Government has allocated INR 85,000 crore for higher education in the 11th Plan.
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