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Medical seat pledge on SC students

The state on Thursday assured Calcutta High Court that no Scheduled Caste (SC) candidate in this year’s Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) would be deprived of a berth in a medical college.

The assurance came in response to a case filed by 33 SC candidates, on behalf of the JEE (Medical) Guardians’ Forum, who were successful in this year’s examination. A government notification, dated August 6, setting aside 70 seats (of the 905 in the state’s seven medical colleges) for “subsequent decision”, had fuelled fears that the seats might be given to those who had written the test on August 17 for “NRI and management-quota candidates”.

Advocate-general Balai Ray told the court that the government had to set aside 15 per cent of the 905 seats for students from other states, who appeared in the all-India entrance examination. Seven and 10 more seats had to be reserved, respectively, for donors who helped set up some of the state’s medical colleges and a “Union government quota”, leaving 754 seats for students domiciled in the state and competing in the JEE.

Of these 754 seats, 22 per cent are reserved for students from the Scheduled Castes and six per cent for those from the Scheduled Tribes. This year, not many seats in the Scheduled Tribe quota were filled up for want of candidates, and these, according to convention and rules, should have gone to other students. But this was not done, the petitioners alleged, forcing them to move court, as many successful JEE candidates had not been called for counselling on August 11, 12 and 13.

Justice Pradipta Ray, after hearing the advocate-general’s assurance, said the matter would come up for hearing on September 15. Thursday’s assurance in court, an iteration of the stand state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra took in the assembly earlier this month, has come as a boost for all the organisations fighting against the government’s decision to keep seats aside for students whose guardians could pay a million rupees.

“We are happy with the advocate-general’s assurance in court, as it implies that the government cannot back out now,” said All-India Democratic Students’ Organisation medical unit spokesperson Chandan Mandal.

The Medical Service Centre (MSC) and the Guardians’ Forum, which held a series of agitations against the million-rupee seats, also expressed satisfaction. “We are holding a citizens’ meet, in which eminent physicians and medical teachers have promised attendance, at Medical College and Hospital this Sunday,” announced MSC spokesperson Mridul Sarkar.

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