Doctoring reservation policy

Confusing admissions rules afflict India's premier medical institute.

By Rimjhim Jain, Sudeep Mukhia
Published: Tuesday 15 February 1994

Under a 1978 agreement between the ministry of health and the Delhi Medical Students' Association, 33 per cent of all post-graduate seats in AIIMS were reserved for AIIMS graduates because they were not eligible to apply in regional medical colleges. As SC/ST students found it difficult to qualify for the institute quota, it was decided in 1982 that they could compete for the 22.5 per cent quota of seats, most of which were vacant.

Authorities claim that after the 1982 clarification, SC/ST students could no longer qualify for the institute quota. However, Mohammad Aslam Siddiqui, a representative of the agitating students, contends, "This is a misinterpretation of the admission rules." He points out that the institute quota is large enough to accommodate all categories of students.

The dispute split the students' union and president Piyush Goel, who took a pro-SC/ST stand, resigned. Later, the sub-dean of examinations, P S N Menon, was accused of being anti-SC/ST and was forced to resign. Even a five-member staff committee set up to examine the issue was boycotted by most students, causing a deadlock.

AIIMS authorities referred the problem to the ministry of health and family welfare, which passed an order on January 1 favouring merit as the criterion and upholding the 1978 agreement.

A fresh admission list drawn up on the basis of merit included three new names, of which two were SC/ST students. But this caused another uproar because it excluded some general category students. One of the affected students, Rakesh Bhasin, approached the Delhi High Court and obtained a stay order on his seat. The hospital administration then decided to freeze all the disputed seats. The deadlock continued until Bhasin withdrew his case on January 11, claiming it was in the interest of academics.

Though the crisis has been resolved for the present, there could be further trouble in the institute and the authorities will have a tough time working out a policy that satisfies all parties.

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