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Ladakh-based education reformist and innovator Sonam Wangchuk believes that the rights given under the reservation policy should be curtailed after its benefits are used by one generation of a family. Accordingly, families in which one generation has benefited from the reservation policy should relinquish their right and not pass it on to their offspring.
According to the education reformist, best known for inspiring the movie character Phunsukh Wangdu, played by Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots, the policy should also be amended to provide reservation in jobs and seats in educational institutions – but not beyond one generation of a family.
“People who deserve are not benefiting, and those who have benefited are forming a creamy layer on top,” Wangchuk said.
Talking about the need for reservation on the basis of the financial situation of a person, he said there is a need to reform the current policy.
Wangchuk himself plans to launch a university – Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) – to bring about a change in the education system and to focus more on the practical aspects of training.
Speaking about affirmative action in his upcoming university, Wangchuk said that though there are no concrete plans, one line of thinking suggests that with “mountains being the core of the institute”, 50 per cent of the seats should be set aside for youth from Ladakh.
HIAL would be an unconventional university giving youth from the mountains knowledge and training for development of mountainous regions so as to earn their living in the mountains itself, Wangchuk said.
The IIT-educated innovator shared his views on the state of the current education system, which has, by some industry estimates, produced a large number of “unemployable engineers.”
“I see two things. One is change the way they are taught so that they gain usable and applicable knowledge. The second part, which is equally important, is why should everybody expect to be employed by somebody, by a government, by a company,” he said.
“So, making education just an empowering force has its own value.”
On his university project, Wangchuk hopes to collect Rs 7 crore by January 26 through crowd-funding, half of his target of Rs 14 crore to set up the first school of the university – the School of Integrated Mountain Development.
So far, Rs 4.6 crore has been collected from the public, he said. The remainder of the target will be collected through the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of companies, he added.
Among corporates, “Jain Irrigation Systems has always been supportive, similarly Essel, and now Petronet LNG, the public sector gas company, is interested and they have committed,” Wangchuk said.
Five public sector entities, including Indian Railways and Coal India, have committed an amount of Rs 5 crore towards the project. “Because it is government’s money, we may route it through the Hill Council of Ladakh, who are our partners,” he said.
He will not approach the University Grants Commission for recognition to the university. Instead, he hopes the government of Jammu and Kashmir will pass a bill in the state assembly recognising the institute as a state university.