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Double medical seats, says VP Singh

Singh had stirred the hornet's nest as PM in 1990 by announcing 27% job quotas for the backward classes.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 16:24 IST

Former Prime Minister VP Singh has suggested doubling the number of seats in medical institutes and a subsidised "neighbourhood school scheme" to resolve the imbroglio over quotas for other backward classes in higher education institutions.

Commenting on the ongoing nationwide anti-quota stir in the country, Singh told a press conference here that he had spoken with Health Minister A Ramadoss on the issue of doubling seats in medical institutes within a year.

"The health minister told me this is possible," said Singh - who had stirred the hornet's nest as Prime Minister in 1990 by announcing 27 per cent job quotas for backward classes on the basis of the recommendations of a statutory commission called the Mandal Commission.

The former Prime Minister, however, maintained that an increase in the number of seats - which is also being considered by the government among the proposals to contain the anti-quota protests - was only a short-term solution.

"The long term solution can be provided by implementing a neighbourhood school scheme on the lines of one such programme in Britain," Singh said.

"Under this scheme, all children would only go to neighbourhood schools. The government should allow the private sector to open these schools and fix a reasonable fee with the participation of local communities in their management."

He said the government should also subsidise these schools so that they remain affordable and children of all sections of society get quality education of the same standard.

"After a few years, you won't require any reservation."

Referring to the commission headed by BP Mandal, Singh expressed anguish that minorities and backward classes had not benefited from its recommendations even after one-and-a-half decades of implementation.

"Some provisions must be made for them within the framework of the Mandal Commission report so that they also get benefited."

The United Progressive Alliance government's plan to implement the 93rd amendment of the constitution to extend reservation in institutions of higher education has triggered nationwide protests by students.

What has irked the students is that after the new system of 27 per cent quotas for other backward classes, the total percentage of reservation for socially backward groups would increase to around 50 per cent.