Time has come to scrap reservation for medical colleges

The question that should override all other considerations be it of race, religion or caste is do we have the best doctors in the business of a life-saving profession?

Representative photo: iStock

The time has come to scrap the system of reservation for admission to medical colleges in the country. The question that should override all other considerations be it of race, religion or caste is do we have the best doctors in the business of a life-saving profession? The latest case of 7.5 per cent reservation for students in Tamil Nadu government schools has made the confusion worse confounded.

The call to revoke the reservation system and introduce the best-for-the-post may be viewed by the votaries of reservation, the stakeholders (read vested interests) in the arena of casteism, religion and language, as questioning and undermining the cause of social justice.

Why should we look at percentage of population for each caste, religion or sect, and analyse how many seats have gone to them in medical colleges? Does it help a patient if the doctor came through the SC/ST, BC or Open Category?

If reservation was once considered sublime, it has descended to the ridiculous. Those shedding tears for children in government schools, are the ones patronising private educational institutions, private hospitals.

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In an ironic twist, most of the politicians who were in the news these last few months ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus, had got treatment in private hospitals and not in government hospitals. Bills running to lakhs of rupees have been paid by them or their relatives to secure high-profile treatment. The poor taxpayer has to fend for himself at a primary health centre or a government hospital while ministers and legislators, who also draw salaries from taxpayers, receive VIP treatment at private hospitals. Did any of these VIPs check whether the doctors treating them were from SC, BC or OC category? Is there any case of a VIP refusing to be treated by a doctor as he or she came from the Open Category, that too from a caste that was not included in the BC or SC list?

Almost every year, the admission process gets bogged down in litigation. Issues like the percentage to be fixed, complications due to orders on creation of MBC (most backward) from within the Backward Classes, creation of a quota for a sub-caste within the SC/ST categories, the plethora of court cases and the temporary orders of the Supreme Court which add to the confusion – all these are matters that attack the minds of the students and those in the education sector. The students are left twiddling their thumbs, and even while TV channels are competing with one another to get TRPs (without fixing them) on prime time debates to split hairs on the reservation issue.

Look at the way the reservation has got mixed up and clouded. When former chief minister MG Ramachandran introduced an income ceiling for BC reservation in 1979, this was opposed, and finally after he returned to power in 1980, he not only scrapped the order, but raised the reservation percentage from 31 to 50.  He was piqued by the electoral reverse in the Lok Sabha polls earlier and took it out on the reservation formula.

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When the PMK demanded a separate category for Most Backward Classes (MBC) within the BC reservation quota, the problem was not over. Though initially satisfied, the PMK is today unhappy and says it has been clubbed with a number of other castes. The PMK believes Vanniyars have not benefited from the MBC quota, and now wants a separate quota for the Vanniyars, carved out of the MBC! The saga seems never-ending. The moment the PMK demands and secures an extra benefit, the other communities in the BC would want to have their pound of flesh, and thus the reservation problem continues to linger and fester.

The 7.5 per cent quota for government schools has so many loopholes that the order may be a sitting duck for a litigant. For instance, a BC candidate in a government school is preferred over a BC student of a private school, raising a new issue of discrimination. There is also a clarification by an official that the 7.5 per cent quota for government schools will be available even for students from the OC. In the last few years, the number of students from the OC in government schools has gone up as the standard of education has distinctly improved. This trend could become more marked in the coming years with the 7.5 per cent quota likely to be an additional incentive. All hell can break loose if it’s found that a number of seats in the 7.5 per cent quota go to OC students. Those who hail the new quota now may well end up criticising it!

Thus, what should matter most is that the candidates with maximum marks get priority, and that should be the only qualification test. When it comes to production of life-saving drugs, is there a reservation quota? Nothing could be more dangerous. Similarly, when it comes to life-saving doctors, should they not be the best? Should the lives of patients be risked merely to placate reservation mongers? These are important issues.

Related news: Reservation not a fundamental right, says Supreme Court

The makers of the Indian Constitution did not say that reservation should be permanent. It was only meant as a temporary palliative. The large number of BC students who get admission even in the OC arena and the hike in the cut-off marks for the BC category year after year shows that the standard of BC candidates is on the up and many of them do not need reservation at all.

Further, with taxpayers’ money being involved in the education system, the least that the government can do is to issue another order, making it mandatory that all those who get admission to medical colleges through the reservation quota, should serve in government hospitals for the first 15 years, before opting for private hospitals. Of these 15 years, at least 10 years should be in rural areas. The government should also prohibit such students/doctors from going abroad for higher studies for the same period of 15 years. This way, the government and the common man can ensure that their services would be available for the public in needy areas. Any move to join private hospitals prior to completion of 15 years government service would mean forfeiture of the degree. Is at least such an order too much to expect?

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)

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