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Strikers hit by exhaustion

Meanwhile, students of IIT joined the agitating medicos in Delhi on Thursday.

india Updated: May 19, 2006 12:09 IST

While the hunger strike by medicos entered the fifth day, the government was hard at work, trying to find a formula for implementing OBC quota.

At the AIIMS, more than 90 medicos collapsed of hunger on Thursday. While they were being wheeled into the hospital, the students of IIT-Delhi joined the agitation. The slogan was the same: the government should roll back the proposal to hike quota.

That does not seem likely. The special Group of Ministers, which is looking into the question of OBC quota, has favoured the implementation of reservation from July 2006 when the new academic year begins. The number of seats in higher-education institutes will also be hiked alongside.

Apart from the three sGoM members - Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Arjun Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram -- Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar also participated in the discussions on Thursday morning.

The ministers said institutions should be allowed to determine the number of seats they would hike on the basis of the infrastructure facilities and the number of teachers they had. This will be the starting point to carry out the government's commitment to the SCs, STs and OBCs, without denying opportunity to students in the general category.

The broad contours of the formula to which the five ministers agreed to were: increase the seats over the next two-three academic years, appoint more teachers and improve the infrastructure. There are, however, suggestions that certain "sensitive institutions", like those dealing with nuclear studies, be kept out of the quota ambit.

The final shape of the Centre's quota package will depend on the discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of other parties, which will begin on Monday. "We will send the formula to the PM before he starts consultations with political parties," Mukherjee told HT.

The Centre's objective is to evolve a formula that will strike a balance between the UPA's agenda of social justice and the need to implement it without creating a social ferment.

It is unlikely that any legislation on reservation will be passed in the Parliament's ongoing session. Since the Left has opposed the ordinance route, the issue may be sealed only in the monsoon session in July, which is also the time the admissions begin.

Later Mukherjee and Ramadoss met representatives of the agitating medicos. Though the Health Ministry has not taken any action against the striking doctors, it has asked hospitals to hire doctors on a temporary basis. After meeting the students, Mukherjee said, "I told them we would protect their interests in the package we were working on. They heard me and promised to revert after consulting with their colleagues."

The anti-reservationists have planned a demonstration at the India Gate on Friday.