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Announcing 27% reservation for OBC and 10% for EWS candidates in the all-India quota for medical admissions, while proportionately increasing overall seats, continues the trend of entrenching reservations. Indeed, it’s surprising this move took so long. Now BJP can claim bragging rights, just like Congress in 2006, when the latter initiated OBC reservations in central education institutions. By upholding EWS quotas too, BJP has theoretically placated most social groups.
Politics of quotas is such that no one will ask even basic questions. How soon will an increase in medical seats to accommodate new quotas happen and what will be the quality of education after that increase? The pandemic should have told the political class that already-existing shortcomings in medical education restrict the output of thoroughly trained doctors. How will putting more stress on this system produce a better outcome? We need many more quality medical institutions to increase the supply of quality medical professionals. But that requires policy that knows how to attract entrepreneurs who value creating institutions and also does rigorous performance reviews of medical colleges. Quota balancing will now be an added job for medical regulators not known for their commitment to excellence.
Indian netas excel in failing at basics and covering them up with populist appeals. They have failed to provide high quality school education or facilitate job creation. Consequently, subpar human capital makes quotas, which involve subdividing a static or shrinking pie, an attractive fallback option. Without economic growth or learning outcomes, OBC groups, sandwiched between the general category and SC/STs, were rallied on the promise of quotas. Now, groups within the OBC quota are clashing over who benefited or lost out, and even the GoI-appointed Rohini Commission is struggling to reconcile claims. Expect more politics on quota and little policy aimed at quality.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.