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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 14:05 GMT
India passes key education bill
An Indian child washing plastic material
The bill is to widen educational opportunities for poor children
The lower house of India's parliament has passed a bill to oblige private universities to admit quotas from disadvantaged low castes and tribes.

Under India's constitution, state-run colleges already reserve places for low caste Hindus and tribes.

The bill was passed by 331 votes to 17 after a heated debate.

The opposition BJP supported the bill but argued that colleges run by religious minorities should have been included too.

But the BJP's move to include minority institutions in the bill was defeated.

'Drop in standards'

The Congress-led government wants India's many independent business, technical and medical colleges to reserve places for students from the traditionally discriminated against and impoverished tribal communities and low castes, also known as Dalits or Untouchables.

Government colleges already admit more than a fifth of their students from these groups.

Some private colleges are opposing the government, saying they fear a drop in standards if the law is changed.

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