Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 09:50 UK

India court approves quota plan

College students on an anti-reservation protest in Delhi
College students have in the past protested against quotas

India's Supreme Court has approved a government plan to allow controversial affirmative action quotas in colleges and universities.

Under the plan the lower castes' share of places in educational institutions would more than double to nearly 50%.

But the judges have ruled that the privileged among the lower castes will not be entitled to the quota benefits.

The court had put the programme on hold last year after several petitions challenging it were filed.

The controversial plan split the country and led to widespread protests across India when it was announced last year.


Many argued that the plan could hurt India's rapid economic rise. But it has the support of millions of students from underprivileged groups.

Efforts to increase affirmative action quotas have been bitterly opposed by students at some of the country's best-known professional colleges.

Student groups have already said they are unhappy with the Supreme Court ruling and that they will hold protests against the order.

Putting the programme on hold last year, the Supreme Court said the government needed to provide fresh data on lower castes - also known as Other Backward Castes or OBCs in official language - because it said it found the present data too old.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said his government is committed to removing inequalities so that everyone can enjoy the fruit of India's economic growth.

Last year, the government pushed a bill through parliament in which places at some of the country's best-known professional colleges were set aside for students from lower-caste and disadvantaged communities.

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