13 years on, stage set for another anti-quota stir?
Reservation for upper-caste poor may spark protests, say some college authorities
New Delhi: With the government’s proposal of 10% reservation in educational institutions, including medical colleges, for economically backward people in the general category, being cleared by Parliament on Wednesday, authorities foresee another anti-quota stir such as the Anti-Mandal agitation, which had taken place in 2006.
Many academicians, especially those in medical institutions, said the step is a politically motivated one and will trigger resistance from students. “This decision seems like vote bank politics. The working class will be unhappy and students may come out on to the streets to protest as medical seats will further shrink. This is not in favour of middle class medical aspirants,” said Dr A.K. Chandna, member, Dental Council of India.
The unrest among student groups was apparent on Thursday with an anti-reservation organization Youth for Equality (YFE) moving the Supreme Court on Thursday against the proposal. YFE has demanded that a deprivation-based system should be applied for all reservations and the upper limit should be 50%. The organization, which was in the forefront during the 2006 anti-quota stir, has also demanded that other forms of affirmative action such as good schooling, scholarships, financial growth, and hostels, should be stepped up and reservation should be gradually tapered off.
YFE has also demanded that the 27% reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) must also be made according to economic criterion and not caste. “The limit of total reservation had been increased to 60%. This will open a Pandora’s box. Reservation should be there but it should be under 50%. Now more and more political parties and caste groups will ask for increased percentage of reservations, both at the centre and the state level,” said Kaushal Kant Mishra president, YFE.
“The timing suggests that this step has been taken for electoral gains. Simply declaring reservations for different sections doesn’t work when there are no schools and institutions for training and no employment opportunities,” he said.
Officials in the medical education department in the ministry of health and family welfare are already struggling to figure out how to give effect to the new reservation system if it is to be implemented.
“We need more clarity about the proposed legislation, including on issues such as proof submission for income group and other criteria. We will need to study the ramifications, advantages and disadvantages and whether it may create confusion and strife,” said B. Srinivas, additional director general (medical education), Union health ministry. “As people with an income group of less than ₹8 lakh will qualify for reservation, when it comes to medical education, around 95% students will qualify,” he said.
Academicians who believe the proposal may prove useful to poor students also think it will trigger protests and opposition. “The poor students who were not in a condition to afford medical education will now be able to afford it. The people of the high income group can anyway afford education in private colleges. However, the upper caste high income student groups would look at it as a shrinking of seats and increase in competition as another 10% will go out of their hands. This in turn may create turbulence,” said Rajeev Sood, dean, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research—Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
A series of protests erupted in India in 2006 against the decision taken by the United Progressive Alliance government to implement 27% reservations for OBCs in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other medical colleges, the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Management, Indian Institute of Science and other higher education institutions of repute. Students and doctors from the upper castes had then said that the government was discriminatory and was playing vote-bank politics.
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