Don't need quota in AIIMS, say doctors

Day after MPs slammed SC order against quota in specialty medical courses, experts say such social measures can’t come at the expense of excellence

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Pankaj Kumar | August 6, 2013



A day after MPs of several political parties closed ranks to criticise the supreme court’s recent order against introducing reservation in appointments at specialty and super-specialty levels in medical institutions, including New Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), medical experts have come out with a different diagnosis.

While most doctors Governance Now spoke to on Tuesday agreed that there should be some form of social equalisation, they said such measures cannot come at the cost of excellence – especially not at critical arenas like teachers of would-be doctors in specialty and super-specialty courses.

Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) vice-president Dr DR Rai said the apex court in its July 18 decision has “clearly considered merit above all” in case of super-specialty courses. “We totally agree with the SC judgement  because at a certain stage nothing comes before meritocracy. Though  privilege should be given to backward classes but it should not be at the super-specialty level,” Dr Rai said on Tuesday.

Dr Sudhir Gupta, head of forensic department at AIIMS, also batted for merit and excellence in certain critical areas. "Merit should be the only criteria in super-specialty courses; excellence cannot be diluted,” he said. “I am not against reservation but an institution like AIIMS should be left on its own, like the way we do with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC, the premier nuclear research facility).”

However, Dr Mukesh Yadav, convener at Quality of Medical Education, an association of doctors to oversee level of education, said he sees no wrong in throwing open medical education to reservation. “India is a welfare state and reservation is a means to uplift the downtrodden sections. We cannot ignore this reality. At the same time, this privilege must not be availed by the creamy layer,” he said.

On Monday, several heavyweight MPs – JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress MP PL Punia and BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan, among others – had raised the issue in parliament on the opening day of the monsoon session. They had criticised the five-judge supreme court bench headed by then chief justice of India Altamas Kabir for passing that verdict.

"This is an attack on the reservation policy of the state. Why have we not taken any note of this serious issue?” Sharad Yadav asked. He also demanded a debate on this issue.

Criticising the judgement, Mulayam Singh Yadav said, "The Supreme Court’s pronouncements can lead to unrest in the country. Parliament has to be above the judiciary.”

The BSP, RJD and SP  members asked the government to “nullify” the decision at the earliest and said the supreme court had applied reservation parameters relating to AIIMS in a “sweeping manner”.

The apex court’s July 18 verdict came on a petition by the faculty association of AIIMS, which contended that there cannot be any reservation for faculty posts to specialty and super-specialty courses in the premier medical institution. However, AIIMS and the Centre took a position to the contrary and had said that reservation should be given to candidates from SC/ST and backward classes as assistant professors and other senior posts in specialty and super-specialty courses as well.

Endorsing the views of a nine-judge constitution bench in the Indra Sawhney case (better known as the ‘Mandal case’) in 1999, the SC bench led by then CJI Kabir said, “We can’t ascribe to such a view as the very concept of reservation implies mediocrity. We will have to take note of the caution indicated in Indra Sawhney’s case.”

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