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Indian medical students protest quota policy across the country
May 2, 2006, 22:45

Medical college students across the country took to the streets Tuesday to protest the government's proposal to increase quotas to 49.5 percent in higher educational institutions.

Though the protests were peaceful, the protest campaign could intensify with students threatening to go on indefinite strikes if the government did not resolve the controversy soon, student leaders warned.

The government intends to make an additional 27 percent reservations for other backward classes (OBC) in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and central universities that will take the overall reserved quota to 49.5 percent.

Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh has defended this on the ground that parliament had passed a law on reservations for disadvantaged sections of society.

In New Delhi, hundreds of medical students turned out to protest the proposal.

"When we students do not believe in the caste system and do not follow it, why is the government forcing it on us," asked Vishal Sharma of the University College of Medical Science (UCMS).

According to him, the government had failed to improve educational standards at the primary level but was now promoting reservations as part of its vote bank politics.

The students of the capital's UCMS, Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College, Lady Harding Medical College, Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) and Delhi University took part in the protests.

Shouting anti-government slogans, around 1,000 students marched from MAMC to Jantar Mantar against the government's reservation policy.

"This protest march is just a show of strength to the government and to make them understand that they should reverse the reservation policy," said Sharad Sharma.

Some OBC students were also amongst the protesters.

"We do not want reservations. We have the ability to get admissions on the basis of merit rather reservations," said Varun Yadav, a Delhi University student.

Another OBC student, Gaurav Kumar said: "The government should provide special facilities at primary education level and not in central universities."

Delhi Police had a difficult time controlling the crowd, leading to traffic jams at several places between MAMC and Jantar Mantar.

In Bihar, over 100 protestors from the Patna Medical College and Hospital and the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital marched in a rally in the scorching heat to protest the government's reservation policy.

The angry students said they would boycott classes and examinations and keep away from the hospital duty. According to the demonstrators, students from other medical colleges in Gaya, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur would also join their protest.

Bihar witnessed violent anti-reservation demonstrations in 1989 when then prime minister V.P. Singh announced reservation for OBCs as per the Mandal Commission report.

In Rajasthan capital Jaipur, the students are divided on the issue.

While students of the College Of Nursing of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Science have flayed the reservations, some students of the S.M.S. Medical College have supported the government's decision.

"We strongly oppose the government's decision to provide special privileges to a certain section of the society merely on the basis of caste. Certain sectors like medical education should be kept away from reservations as this is directly associated with human life," said C.S. Joshi of the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences.

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