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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 May 2006, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
India makes college quota offer
Archive photo of earlier Bangalore protest
Bangalore has seen several protests against the plan
The Indian government has given students written proposals in an effort to end a strike over a plan to increase college quotas for lower castes.

Students fear the affirmative action plan will mean fewer places for upper caste students, and lower standards.

After a day of meetings, Federal Minister Oscar Fernandes said that the quotas would not lead to a reduction in general places.

The government has also pledged to improve the education infrastructure.

Mr Fernandes said after a first meeting with the students that they had already been reassured that the general category places would not be reduced as a result of the new quota for lower castes.

He then met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before returning to the students with the government's first written offer since the protests began several weeks ago - thus fulfilling one of the students' specific demands.

On Friday, Mr Singh promised a "massive expansion" in higher education.

Review call

The students also want a committee to be set up which will review the utilisation and efficiency of reservation in the last 60 years.

Junior doctors protest in Calcutta
Doctors have held protests throughout the country

The federal government plans would set aside an additional 27% of places in educational institutions for Other Backward Classes who have been traditionally discriminated against on the basis of their background.

The government has said the plan will come into effect from June next year.

Around 23% of college places are already reserved for lower castes and tribes.

Bangalore rally

Nearly 4,000 people participated in a rally in Bangalore rally on Sunday, which took place under the banner of a group called Youth for Equality.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Singh says education will expand

Students from the country's premier institutes in the city, such as the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management and junior doctors from various medical colleges took part in the march.

Students of Indian Institute of Technology in the southern city of Madras came to Bangalore to join the rally.

One of the protestors, software engineer Venkatraman, told the BBC that "we will intensify the agitation till the government drops the move to increase reservations".

He said in the next few days, protests would also be held in the "Electronic City" in Bangalore, home to hundreds of software companies, including Infosys and Wipro.

Doctors have stopped working in hospitals in some cities and towns of the southern Indian state of Karnataka in protest against the quota proposal.

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