Students in Maharashra suffer most amidst Maratha quota row
In a tug-of-war between the government and the judiciary, students continue to suffer, as admissions to medical and dental institutes are a mess every year. The Maharashtra government introduces new regulations, and students and parents petition the courts against these new rules. This year too, the situation is no different.
“The state is using all its power to retain the socially and educationally backward class (SEBC) quota without understanding how it is affects other meritorious students who deserve a seat, not because of their caste or social status, but because of their ability,” said Akruti Yadav, a PG medical student.
On May 2, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court (HC) ruled that 16% reservation for Marathas under the SEBC category won’t apply to post graduate (PG) medical and dental courses, as the registration process for their entrance tests began before the SEBC Reservation Act, 2018, came into effect. The Supreme Court, on May 9, upheld the HC’s judgment. However, the state passed an ordinance to remove the legal hitch in applying Maratha reservation to PG medical and dental courses in the state this year. In doing so, it has upheld the admissions of 253 students.
But, the matter is now back in court as three medical aspirants from the city moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the state’s ordinance. The court also rendered the government’s distribution of seats in medical and dental colleges to various caste groups to be illegal, even though two rounds of admissions were already over.
“The court order was very clear that any new decision cannot be introduced after admissions have begun. The government should have thought this through and applied SEBC only after all parties were satisfied with the decision. What it did instead was force a new quota on students, days before admissions began, which has led to chaos,” said Mahesh Mangaonkar, parent of a PG medical aspirant. Experts have highlighted how politicians decide or define the backwardness or forwardness of any community.
“The Maratha quota has been politicised too much. The state is expecting support without even explaining why this community needs the quota. It should have understood the pros and cons of introducing a new quota to the education system instead,” said Govardhan Wankhede, retired professor from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who specialises in higher education of the marginalised communities. “It is the tug-of-war between the judiciary and the government which has ultimately led to students suffering the most. Merit should not be replaced without reason.”
While the state ordinance clearly says that the SEBC quota will only be applicable to medical, dental and health science courses, admissions to other degree courses are not spared of the quota row either.
Last year, admissions to first year degree courses were stalled for weeks after the state refused to accept an order by the Bombay HC, which was in favour of minority institutes. The institutes had requested permission to not keep aside any seats for reserved categories, as they anyway keep aside 50% seats for the linguistic minority.
Following backlash from students and political parties, the state had ordered a stay in degree admissions and approached the Supreme Court to quash the Bombay HC order. The final decision, however, was in favour of the minority institutes.
“To make more seats available under quotas means less benefit to students of merit. This will only lead to poor quality of education. It’s good to see the Bombay HC saw the agony of students and stood by its decision to quash reservation for backward classes in minority institutes, and encourage merit-based admissions instead for the remaining seats,” said the principal of a south Mumbai institute, on condition of anonymity.