Content:

  1. Long overdue

Long overdue

Context:

The Centre has approved reservation for the OBC and EWS categories within the All India Quota for NEET.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper 2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Mains Questions:

  1. OBC reservation in All-India Quota medical seats puts an end to a discriminatory policy. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the All India Quota?
  • Policy till Now
  • What changes now?
  • What led to the decision?
  • Issues Related to All India Quota
  • Conclusion

What is the All India Quota?

  • Supreme Court on September 21, 1986 ordered creation of an All India quota in non-central institutions and directed all States to surrender 15% of seats in under graduation and 25% in post-graduation to the quota so that candidates across the country could compete.
  • In 2005, the apex court raised the percentage of postgraduate seats to be surrendered from 25% to 50% while deciding Prakash Sharma versus Union of India.
  • On January 31, 2007, in Abhay Nath v University of Delhi and Others, the Supreme Court directed that reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes be introduced in the AIQ.
  • In deemed/central universities, ESIC, and Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), 100% seats are reserved under the AIQ.

Policy till Now

  • In 2007 ,government passed the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2007 providing for 27% reservation to OBC students in central government institutions.
  • While state government medical and dental colleges provide reservation to OBCs in seats outside the All India Quota, this benefit was so far not extended to seats allocated under the AIQ in these state colleges.
  • The 10% EWS quota under the Constitution (One Hundred And Third Amendment) Act, 2019, too, has been implemented in central educational Institutions, but not in the NEET AIQ for state institutions.

What changes now?

  • Reservation for the OBC and EWS categories within the AIQ will be offered in medical colleges from the current academic year. This would benefit nearly 1,500 OBC students in MBBS and 2,500 OBC students in postgraduate courses, and around 550 and 1,000 EWS students respectively, according to a statement issued by the Health Ministry.
  • Between 2017 and 2020, nearly 40,800 seats have been allocated under the AIQ in colleges run by state governments, a report by the All-India Federation of Other Backward Classes Employees’ Welfare states. That implies that up to 10,900 OBC students would have missed out on admission under the OBC quota.

What led to the decision?

  • The denial of OBC and EWS reservation has been the subject of protests for years. In July last year, on a petition by Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK and its allies, the Madras High Court ruled that OBC students too can avail reservation in the AIQ. It held that the reservation could not be implemented for the then academic year for want of time, and can be implemented from 2021-22.
  • However, when the notification for NEET-2021 was issued on July 13 this year, it did not mention any provision for OBC reservation within the AIQ. The DMK filed a contempt petition and on July 19, the Madras High Court stated, “The Union’s attempt to not implement the OBC reservation quota in respect of the all-India quota seats… in the academic year 2021-22 appears to be contumacious, in derogation of the order dated July 27, 2020, passed by this Court.”
  • Amid protests from OBC students, including on social media, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted to the Madras High Court on July 26 that the government’s decision on implementing OBC quota for MBBS seats under AIQ in state government colleges is at “very advanced stage”. The next hearing is listed for August 3, while other petitions have been filed too, including one by Saloni Kumari.

Issues Related to All India Quota:

  • Opposed By the Medical Council: In the courts, the Medical Council of India argued against OBC reservation, but the Union government said it was not averse to the reservation, subject to an overall 50% limit.
  • Discriminatory Provisions: The omission of OBC reservation in the AIQ seats was obviously discriminatory. There were OBC seats in medical institutions run by the Centre, as well as State-specific quotas in those run by the States.
  • It was incongruous that seats given up by the States to help the Centre redistribute medical education opportunities across the country were kept out of the ambit of affirmative action.
  • There was even a case to argue that, as AIQ seats originally belonged to the States, the quota policy applicable to the respective States ought to be applied to them.

Conclusion:

  • The Centre’s decision to extend its 27% reservation for ‘other backward classes’ to all seats under the AIQ is a belated, but welcome development, as Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates have been denied their due for years.
  • And in concord with its keenness to balance OBC interests with those of the socially advanced sections, the Union government has also decided to provide 10% of the AIQ seats to those from the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS).
  • This is almost entirely the outcome of a Madras High Court verdict and the efforts of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which approached the court with the demand.
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