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Why only doctors? Is no one else concerned?

IT TOOK three days for discontent to spill over at five Delhi medical colleges after HRD Minister Arjun Singh proposed the introduction of 27.5 per cent reservation for OBCs in higher education. As a first step, the medicos formed Youth for Equality -- a body protesting against the proposed reservation. A month on, the organisation almost exclusively comprises medical students.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 00:49 IST

IT TOOK three days for discontent to spill over at five Delhi medical colleges after HRD Minister Arjun Singh proposed the introduction of 27.5 per cent reservation for OBCs in higher education. As a first step, the medicos formed Youth for Equality -- a body protesting against the proposed reservation.
A month on, the organisation almost exclusively comprises medical students.

When forum representatives approached students at DU, IIT Delhi and the School of Planning and Architecture for support, they got a lukewarm response.
"We approached DUSU first, but the student leaders offered us moral support," said Abhishek Bansal, a sixth semester student at Maulana Azad Medical College. "We said we could do without it. Most IIT Delhi students were not interested as their summer training was on; the rest were on vacation."

So why -- when the average student seems indifferent to OBC quota -- are medical students protesting so vehemently? For one, the number of medical seats at government-run colleges are much lower than any other mainstream technical course.

Only 1,600 MBBS seats are available at the all-India level, while the seven IITs alone offer close to 5,000 BTech seats to engineering aspirants. This is apart from the several thousand seats offered by the 20 National Institutes of Technology and Regional Engineering Colleges.

In many state government-run medical colleges, there is a further quota for domicile students. It gets worse when it comes to post-graduate medical courses.

"MBBS students are agitating because they'll have to compete for admission to post-graduate courses," said Mukund Sanghi, a fourth-year student at IIT Delhi. "A BTech degree is enough for engineering students, who mostly go on to do MBA, but for a medical student an MBBS is nothing."
IIT students also feel medical colleges are more unionised. "Whenever you've a union, political elements get in," said Tushar Raheja, another IIT Delhi student. "We don't have a students' union. The institution frowns upon such overt forms of protest."

In fact, initial moves to start a protest at IITD were contained by the faculty who prevailed upon the students to petition the chief justice of India rather than show dissent by taking to the streets.

At Delhi University too, few students seem interested in protesting. Reasons: annual and civil-services exams, and summer vacation. (The ongoing vacation also explains why IIM students have not joined the protests.)

Many also feel that the "caste lines have blurred" since a sizable number of OBC students already study at the university. "When Mandal was first announced, the caste divide became very sharp, but now people are more used to the idea," said Shaswati Majumdar, HoD department of Germanic and Romance Studies at DU.

Others feel the average DU student is not politicised enough and is mainly interested in his studies and career. "We thought of organising a protest march to India Gate, but apart from a few English Honours students, nobody was interested. People are very self-centered," said S. Shwetha of Hansraj College.