The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota talks stuck on review cry
Rivals add numbers

New Delhi, May 22: Medical students protesting against quotas today told the Union health secretary that a review of the policy by an expert committee should be done and made public before any step is taken to increase reserved seats for Other Backward Classes.

Talks between a delegation of the students and health secretary P.C. Hota were deadlocked even as both pro- and anti-reservationists added more to their numbers on the streets of the capital.

“We are now demanding that the proposal for OBC quotas should not be implemented unless the expert committee submits its review report on the existing reservation policy,” said student leader Amitasha Sinha of the Youth for Equality group.

“We also don’t want false promises,” said Anirudh Lochan, a doctor and member of the group. “We need a commitment from the government that an increase in the number of seats and an improvement of infrastructure will be done within a specific time frame.”

The pro-reservationists, too, added to their mobilisation. Ashok Yadav, a former minister from Uttar Pradesh leading a gathering at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium, said: “This is a show of students’ leadership. We have students from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh now. More people will join us in the coming days. We want everyone to know that we should not be underestimated. We want the implementation of the quota policy as soon as possible.”

He specified a time frame of 90 days within which he expected the government to implement the policy.

The gathering organised by the pro-reservationists had men, women, young children and senior citizens participating in it. Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University students along with representatives of 36 colleges attended the meeting. The participants shouted slogans and brandished placards which read “Hegemony is not merit, merit comes only when there is equality” and “Give us space to nurture our talent”.

Dr Jitender Gupta from Maulana Azad Medical College said: “We support reservation and we request that it be implemented immediately. The claim that quality will decline is wrong. Rich students can get into colleges paying capitation fees. Is quality not compromised there' All these students who get in through general quota take the first flight out of the country. Even if they are less meritorious, or so everyone says, the reserved quota students are the ones who stay back in the country and help it grow.”

At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, more quota protesters joined those on hunger strike. Students distributed post cards and urged friends, teachers and parents to write to the Prime Minister.

Deans of five medical colleges where students are on strike met the health secretary.

“We will not return to the Prime Minister again. We will continue with our struggle in new ways. We will put pressure on state governments which would in turn pressure the Centre,” said Dr. Vinod Binodpatro from AIIMS.

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