The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quota panel key to protest tenure
Centre push to seat hike

New Delhi, May 27: The lifespan of the 14-day agitation by medical students and doctors will hinge on the government’s response to their demand for an independent commission to assess the reservation system, the students reiterated today.

Senior resident doctors who were in the student delegation that met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday said they have so far received no assurance from the government that such a commission would be set up.

“The Prime Minister told us that the environment was not conducive now for the establishment of such a commission,” Dr Binod Patro, the president of the resident doctors’ association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said.

He added: “We were also told that this was a decision that Parliament would have to take.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said Singh had assured the students that there would be no decrease in seats for students in the general category. There was no specific talk about the commission, the spokesperson said. He said the Prime Minister told the students that issues such as the creamy layer among the backward classes could only be taken up by Parliament.

The medicos have demanded that the government set up an independent commission to determine if the intended beneficiaries of caste-based reservation system have been able to reap its benefits.

“We want a written assurance or any other guarantee from the government that such a commission would be established,” said Anirudh Lochan, a resident doctor from the University College of Medical Sciences.

The doctors have also asked the government to ensure that any increase in the number of seats in institutions is accompanied by a commensurate increase in infrastructure.

The health ministry has asked a number of central government-funded medical colleges in the capital and elsewhere to consider raising their intake of both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Health secretary Prasanna Hota today said the proposed increase would be about 50 to 60 per cent, but declined to comment further. Besides AIIMS, several medical colleges in New Delhi and elsewhere are expected to raise seats.

AIIMS berths

AIIMS has been asked to increase intake into the MBBS programme from 50 to 90 seats. “It’s possible. AIIMS could do this in a year,” said Kumud Handa, a member of the AIIMS faculty association.

“AIIMS might have the infrastructure. But other hospitals with a higher intake might take longer,” he said.

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