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Document in hand, students sceptical

New Delhi, May 28: The government today released a two-page document designed to defuse the anti-reservation agitation but medical students and doctors rejected the offer and lined up meetings to take a final decision.

The document handed over by Congress leader Oscar Fernandes to representatives of the students says the government is committed to expansion of medical facilities and will examine their demand for a commission to review the reservation system.

“We’re shocked and disappointed,” said Dr Apurv Mehra, a post-graduate student at the University College of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, who has been negotiating with the government.

“This is the first time the government has said anything in writing about a commission. But we want a clear offer and not something as ambiguous as this statement.”

The government said it “has taken note of various concerns expressed by medical students and their demands for constituting an expert committee/commission and will get it examined.”

“Now the agitation will get stronger,” Mehra said. “Why couldn’t the government talk about the commission in more concrete terms' If it doesn’t have the power to do so, it shouldn’t call us to negotiate.”

“This strike will continue,” said Dr Binod Khaitan, an associate professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The AIIMS faculty will join the students on their strike for a day, he said.

Doctors from two large private hospitals in the capital have agreed to a day-long closure of all out-patient services this week.

The striking medical students have said they want a categorical assurance from the government that an independent and apolitical commission would be set up to review all aspects of the reservation system. “A promise to set up a commission in the future is nothing,” said Dr Vinod Patro, the president of the residents doctors association at AIIMS. “We want the commission before quota implementation,” he said.

The students plan to discuss the document tonight with members of resident doctors’ associations from various medical colleges who have arrived here.

A section of the students wants to call off the strike. “Some of them are tired, and are wondering how long this deadlock will continue,” a student said.

The offer document says the Centre would provide the resources required to create additional facilities and expand seats. “The total number of seats available in medical institutions under the central government for non-reserved categories will not be reduced.”

But the students fear that the government might raise seats in some institutes and keep those in the elite ones unchanged.

Reservation of up to 27 per cent will be implemented in educational institutions under the central government from the 2007 academic session. The age of retirement of professors will be raised to ensure qualified faculty is available.

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