With the notification for NEET 2021 having been released, a socio-political storm has started brewing over the non-implementation of reservation provisions for OBC candidates in the All-India quota seats.
A number of personalities, including Professor Dilip Mandal have spoken out against the alleged high-handedness of the central government. Mandal Army chief Aniruddh Singh Vidrohi has been arrested following calls to protest against the provisions of the notification.
Following the central government’s directive to ensure parity in representation and access, 15% of UG seats and 50% of PG seats in state government medical institutions were allocated to the All-India medical quota and to which reservation provisions did not apply.
Even after the Mandal Commission report in 1992, reservation provisions weren’t implemented in the All-India medical quota seats. On the 31st January, 2007, handing out the judgement in Abhay Nath case, the Supreme Court held that the constitutional provision of reserving seats for SCs and STs would apply to the All-India quota as well. However, yet another time, the OBCs were given a miss.
The Central Educational Institutions Reservations Act spearheaded by Arjun Singh, in 2006 was not any help either.
The All-India Federation of Other Backward Classes Employees’ Welfare claims that since the introduction of NEET in 2017, over 11,000 OBC candidates have missed out on availing admissions to colleges under the All-India pool due to the non-implementation of reservation provisions for the same.
In July, 2020, the Madras High Court pronounced that the scheme of OBC reservations should extend to the All-India pool and set up an expert committee to decide on the terms of implementation.
The Centre submitted the report of the committee constituted by the Madras High Court in the Supreme Court, petitioning to club the same with the Saloni Kumar case that has been pending since 2015.
The All-India Federation of Other Backward Classes Employees’ Welfare claims that due to the deliberate non-implementation of provisions, more than 11,000 students from the community have missed out on availing admission opportunities.
Professor Dilip Mandal, in a discussion with Dr Ratan Lal, elucidated on the historical moorings of OBC reservation and pointed out to the role that consciousness plays in the empowerment of communities, citing the example of Tamil Nadu.
Sharjeel Usmani, secretariat member of Fraternity Movement believes that representation of Muslim students in medical institutes will be further affected due to denial of reservation to OBCs in the All-India medical quota.
Several Ambedkarite activists have also decried the avoidance of execution of reservation provisions as a ploy to deny marginalized communities their right to adequate representation. Hashtags have been trending on Twitter with calls to ban NEET which is perceived as discriminatory.
Due to the matter being under adjudication by the Supreme Court, the centre could not implement OBC reservations in the ongoing year as well, except in central institutions and universities, the notification said. This could also be considered to be the centre’s official stand on the matter.
Why the issue of Denial of OBC reservation in NEET is not yet a students issue too ? When OBC students are in majority. It an injustice to the majority of students, which can affect our education system.
All Students Organisation Must Raise Their Voice!
— Ritesh (@outcastritesh) July 17, 2021
Tamil Nadu has a doctor for every 253 people, better than WHO norms. It is this medical revolution that North Indian bureaucrats & politicians want to destroy with #NEET. Majority of TN doctors are from state boards and belong to OBC, SC, ST. @arivalayam #banNEET #NOOBC_NONEET pic.twitter.com/VxQ9uOYseX
— Dilip Mandal (@Profdilipmandal) July 16, 2021
SFI Delhi submitted a memorandum to MHRD against its reservation policy that denies OBC reservation in NEET exam. We oppose such systematic attempts to do away with affirmative policies for the backwards communities. #NOOBC_NONEET #NEET#OBCReservation pic.twitter.com/rN6ctFvDYw
— SFI Delhi (@SfiDelhi) July 19, 2021
There seem to be no easy solutions as the issue at hand, which is inherently political, needs to have a political settlement. The BJP led central government, in its recent ministry shuffle, has given hitherto unprecedented representation to the OBC community but has constantly shied away from implementing OBC reservations in All-India quota seats. Contradictory stands on similar issues seem to reek of hypocrisy and which should be immediately rectified.
On the other hand, a fair number of commentators and political scientists including Professor Mandal believe that as long as marginalized communities are not provided adequate representation in all spheres, the council of ministers’ composition is an act of mere tokenism.
“The official notification for NEET clearly states that the issue of reservation for OBCs in state colleges will only be settled after the judgement in Saloni Kumari case is delivered. If we look at the trajectory of the case, we find that there are more than 20 hearings in the case and it has also not been put on priority. So, the question remains for how long you will deny the reservations,” Professor Mandal told Newsclick over call.
As yet another year of medical admissions take place without the OBC reservation scheme in place, it is imperative the central government pays heed to the issues raised by the affected community. It is only via implementing the constitutionally mandated scheme of reservation for the OBC community can the government stake any claim to have ensured adequate representation.