A majority of political parties on Monday reiterated their opposition to the 10% quota in higher educational institutions for economically weaker sections (EWS) within the general category. Consequently, they wanted the Tamil Nadu government to reject the Medical Council of India’s offer to increase the sanctioned strength of students in medical colleges by 25% if the State came forward to implement the quota.
Of the 21 parties that attended an all-party meeting called by the State government to decide the issue of quota in admissions to undergraduate medical courses, 16 were against it. They included DMK, CPI, VCK, PMK, MDMK and the Makkal Needhi Maiam. Five parties, including BJP, Congress, CPI(M) and Puthiya Tamizhagam, supported the move, according to Thol. Thirumavalavan and D. Ravikumar, MPs and representatives of the VCK. While earlier Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami had said that all “recognised” parties would be consulted on the issue, the government extended an invitation to “registered” political parties as well.
Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, who chaired the meeting lasting over three hours at the Secretariat, told reporters, “After consulting legal experts again, the government will take a favourable decision on the issue.”
Those who participated in the discussion underscored the need for preserving the 69% reservation meant for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in Tamil Nadu. It was former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who got the quota included in the Ninth Schedule, Mr. Panneerselvam pointed out.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, the Deputy Chief Minister informed the delegates that the Medical Council of India (MCI) had sought proposals from State governments on the implementation of the new quota arrangement in admission to undergraduate courses in medicine without disturbing the existing system. Of 3,500 seats across 25 medical colleges in the State, the 69% quota is being followed with respect to 2,975 seats, after setting apart 15% of seats – 525 – for all-India admission. If the State agrees to implement the 10% quota for EWS, it will get an additional 1,000 seats, of which 850 will be available to it.
He contended that eventually the total number of seats would go up to 3,825. After earmarking 10% of the seats for EWS (383), the seats available for those covered under the existing quota system will number 586.
DMK president M.K. Stalin argued that the additional intake would “only favour upper castes” as most of the extra seats would go to them. As per MCI rules, colleges having over 200 seats would not be able to increase their intake. This would be applicable to four colleges, including Madras and Stanley medical colleges. The existing reservation system should not be sacrificed by giving in to “deceiving assurances”, he said.
Giving an elaborate account of the history behind reservation in the State, Mr. Stalin said that unlike other States, Tamil Nadu did not have a high proportion of EWS in its population. So, the proposed quota would not be relevant here.
Tamilisai Soundarajan, BJP’s State president, said the move would not pose “any problem” to the concept of social justice. A. Gopanna of the Congress, who read out the speech of TNCC president K.S. Alagiri, recalled that it was former Chief Minister Kamaraj who was responsible for the first Constitutional amendment to protect reservation.
Even when the Justice Party was in power in 1928 and Omandur Ramasamy Reddiar of the Congress was Chief Minister later, there existed a quota for “forward castes”. Without affecting the 69% quota directly or indirectly, the Congress now had no objection to providing reservation to the EWS, the Congress member said.
K. Balakrishnan, State secretary of the CPI(M), wanted enumeration to be carried out to determine the number of people falling under the EWS category.
The MDMK said that while it was all for other measures to uplift the EWS, it was strongly opposed to the move, which would affect the existing quota system and interests of the majority of people. The party wanted the State government to seek exemption from the proposed system and urge the Centre to give up the new quota.