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Medical quota ball back in govt court

Mumbai, July 26: Maharashtra is trying hard to close its doors to medical students from other states.

The government has stressed that it would continue its efforts at doing away with the 15 per cent quota in medical institutions as “our own students are getting a raw deal”.

It also does not think it is setting a bad precedent by trying to withdraw from the all-India reservation system.

In a statement, health and medical education minister Digvijay Khanvilkar said the government “feels that our students are losing out in a situation where 315 seats in colleges across the state go to outsiders while only three students from Maharashtra get into colleges in other states”.

The Supreme Court, however, was not convinced by this logic and, earlier this week, stayed the state legislation banning the 15 per cent reservation. The matter has been posted for a final hearing.

The apex court also stayed the implementation of the management quota in medical and engineering colleges in the state after reports of seats being “sold to the highest bidder” hit the headlines in local dailies recently.

The court took exception to the unilateral withdrawal of the medical seats from the all-India quota scheme — which had been framed under its orders — and caustically noted that the government should have approached it if it had “any difficulty on the subject”.

Khanvilkar, however, maintained that the grievances of the state and its students were genuine. That is why the state brought in the Maharashtra Medical and Dental Colleges Admission, Regulation and Abolition of All India Quota Act, he pointed out.

The minister said the quota system came into being following the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Pradip Jain case in 1984.

“But we realised that only three students from the state qualified in the all-India exam while 315 students from other states came to our colleges. There was an immense disparity and we were only trying to set it right,” he added.

The government has said that Maharashtra was indirectly “subsidising other states to the extent of Rs 40 crore annually by spending Rs 3.5 lakh on every student”. While states like Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have got the maximum benefit from the scheme, Maharashtra itself, according to the government, was getting zilch.

Now the government is gearing itself for a review petition seeking to withdraw from the all-India quota system. “Even Gujarat is with us on this,” government sources said.

Khanvilkar denied that Maharashtra was getting insular with its new education policy.

“It is not that there are only Maharashtrian students in our colleges. We only want a more level playing field for our students. It is our job to protect their interests,” he said.

“We are sure we will be able to bring to the judiciary’s notice the glaring lapses in the all-India quota process.”

Legal experts, however, differed. “Imagine what would happen if every state began talking in the same language,” a senior lawyer said.

“I think the Supreme Court’s freeze (on the state government’s plans) is in the best interest of every body.”

The education ball is now back in the government’s court.

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