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More seats among peace options before Govt

With agitation paralysing health services across the country, the Centre wants to come up with a solution at the earliest.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 10:15 IST

With the anti-reservation stir by medical students and doctors intensifying, the government has decided to explore mechanisms that will address the concerns of both the striking medicos and the OBCs.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs on Monday discussed the agitation against the proposed 27 per cent quota for OBCs in higher-education institutes. After the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the government would "ensure a mechanism in which it will be possible to ensure the interests of all sections of society".

Though Mukherjee refused to divulge details, it is learnt that increasing the number of seats in various central institutions is on the agenda of the UPA government. The HRD Ministry is believed to have already asked the IITs and IIMs to submit details regarding the seats' hike.

With Monday's agitation paralysing health services in many cities across the country, the Centre wants to come up with a solution at the earliest. "Something has to be done to address the situation in the short term," Mukherjee said. "We are concerned as they (agitating students) are our children. But at the same time, we cannot forget that the Constitution has been amended to provide reservations to OBCs."

Sharad Pawar, another CCPA member, also said the interests of both sides would be protected while refusing to spell out the measures the Centre would take.

Sources said the government was not keen on postponing the enactment of the bill — Reservation of Seats in Central Educational Institutions 2006 — since it could trigger protests from the backward communities.

The bill, sent to the cabinet secretariat last week, however, is yet to be listed for cabinet consideration.

While the draft legislation covers all central government institutions, the state governments will have to enact similar laws to regulate private educational institutions. MAA Fatimi, MoS for HRD, said the Centre had asked the state governments to frame legislative proposals.

Earlier in the day, the agitating medicos demanded an audience with the prime minister and rejected HRD Minister Arjun Singh's offer for talks. Hundreds of medical students wore black badges, boycotted classes and took out protest marches in Delhi, Mumbai Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Jaipur while doctors struck work in government and private hospitals. In the Capital, students continued their hunger strike before the AIIMS on the second day.

The OPDs in most government and private hospitals remained closed. Taking a stern view of the situation, the Centre said it would take action against the protesting doctors. "We have appealed to the students and junior and senior residents to come back and join duty," said Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. "(Or), we will have new people for work."

To deal with the shortage of medical staff, the Delhi government requested doctors from the army and railways to join government hospitals. "Patients are being sent to MCD hospitals," said health secretary DS Negi. "Doctors from other departments are being sent to ICU, emergency and casualty sections."

Despite this and the parallel OPDs run by students in some hospitals, the patients suffered for want of adequate medical services.

First Published: May 16, 2006 10:15 IST