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ACCESS to higher education has been a long-standing policy concern in India. Reservation for different social groups at the central and state levels has been a typical policy response. With the implementation of reservation for OBCs in the centrally aided higher education institutions, the debate on reservation has picked up again. Among other things, the policy of reservation in higher education is based on the premise that participation of persons from the reserved category is uniformly low and reservation would result in significantly higher participation. The discussion on issues relating to the measurement of participation in higher education and the ‘deficits’ experienced by different groups has, however, been inadequate. It is argued here that an appropriate measure of ‘deficits’ should inform the nature and scope of affirmative action. Such an effort may also make the policy initiative more ‘acceptable’ across various population segments.
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