| Leaders of the striking students address them after meeting Arjun. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, April 27: Human resource development minister Arjun Singh apologised to medical students who were manhandled outside his house yesterday but he did not give any assurance on reviewing the decision to step up reservations in educational institutions, including IIMs, IITs and medical colleges.
The HRD minister’s gesture seems to have sowed seeds of dissent among the medicos in Delhi with a section agreeing to suspend till May 12 the indefinite strike in protest against the police action on them. But many students wanted the strike to continue till the government announced a review.
Eventually, it was decided that resident doctors and interns, who were on a day-long token strike, would join work tomorrow while a section of the students would continue the class boycott.
Citing the model code of conduct in force because of the Assembly polls, Arjun dodged the students’ demand to roll back the decision to introduce 27 per cent reservations for candidates from Other Backward Classes. The students decided to wait till May 12, a day after the counting of votes.
The Election Commission has asked the cabinet secretary to respond by tomorrow to the charge that Arjun had announced the new quotas in violation of the model code. The government had sought time till May 1 but the commission set Friday as the deadline.
Issuing an apology for the police action, the minister invited the students for a meeting at his 17 Akbar Road residence.
“I was pained by the news that a number of students of medical colleges wanted to meet me and were not allowed to come and see me. I was told that you wanted to meet me but all of you could not have come at the same time. Anyway, I have never closed my doors on anyone in my whole of 50 years of political life,” he said.
Ministry sources said Arjun has asked Delhi police to remove deployment of forces near his residence.
“We have not called off our strike. We are only putting it on hold till May 12 and we hope the minister will meet us as per the assurance he has given to us,” Aniruddh Lochan, a representative of the striking students, said after the meeting with Arjun.
Warning the minister of a backlash if he goes back on his assurance, another representative, Sujit Shukla, added: “If he goes back on the assurance, we should not be held responsible for what happens after that.”
Water jets from cannons and blows rained on medical students and interns from five premier medical colleges yesterday when they gathered for a protest demonstration outside Arjun’s house.
On Thursday morning, the students of Maulana Azad Medical College, Lady Hardinge Medical College, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, University College of Medical Sciences and Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College boycotted lectures and stayed away from outpatient departments. Some of the colleges have postponed examinations.
The HRD minister said reservation was not for an individual to decide. The cabinet will take a decision which will be “well-reasoned and well-considered”.
“I cannot pre-judge or put limits on the cabinet decision,” Arjun said. “Let the cabinet take a decision, then I will speak to you.”