Medical students on strike, let’s see.

AIIMS students and doctors (no longer in active strike) are in protest against Arjun Singh’s proposal to add 22.5% reservation to the people who belong to so called other backward castes (OBC). I did a podcast on this issue when this announcement was actually made (April first week). There was quite a lot of attention given to the issue in blogs and media and to an extent by the students (as they show in TV) in India as well. But nothing close to what’s happening now. There’s been a clear 40 day gap between what’s happening now as a “reaction” to Arjun Singh’s announcement and the announcement itself, don’t know if they took the time to consolidate themselves. Still, a month seems like a long period for planning a protest and hunger strike.
If you are wondering why the medical students are so active and there’s been next to no response from students from other faculties (engineering and sciences), it’s because of this:
-->The reservation scheme suggested now includes postgraduate studies as well.
While postgraduate studies in India is not a big deal for UG students in Engg, it is for the med students; especially when the number of seats is halved or less than that in most of the institutions. Since what I write here is not going to change anything, I’ll save myself the effort and time of searching the exact numbers. I’ll just give a shallow theory based on my assumptions.
It appears as if the majority of students of the AIIMS belong to OC. Let me make up some random numbers (out of 100)

No of students who belong to OC = 50
No of students who belong to OBC = 27
No of students who belong to SC/ST = 23

We should keep in mind that the OBC students who are currently enrolled in AIIMS and other such institutions, got in through open competition. So Arjun Singh’s announcement would actually favour the existing OBC students. Now let’s see what the case is when they try to go for PG studies.
Again I’m making up some ridiculously extreme numbers here (this time the GPA),

All OC students have an average of 90%
All OBC students have an average of 85%
All of SC/ST students have an average of 80%

As we saw earlier the number of PG seats is half or less than half of the UG seats. So if there are 50 seats for PG,

13 seats are allocated to SC/ST students
12 seats are allocated to OBC students and
25 seats for open competition

Hmm… seems like it’s close to 50% chance for each student to get in to the PG program. The obvious problem is the difference in credentials required for each student. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Let me play with the numbers, this time a bit more on the dangerous side,

No of students who belong to OC = 65
No of students who belong to OBC = 12
No of students who belong to SC/ST = 23

Now, the OC students have 38% chance, the SC students have 50% chance and OBC students have a 100% chance of making it to PG studies. And there are always self-respecting students from SC/ST and OBC category who not only have high average but also high moral values. Assuming half of SC/ST students (say X) choose to fight it out in open category the no of students in OC changes a little but with wider ramifications,

No of students who belong to OC + X = 77
No of students who belong to OBC = 12
No of students who belong to SC/ST = 13

Now, the OC students have 32% chance, the SC students - X, have 100% chance and OBC students have a 100% chance of making it to PG studies. Woah that is scary! ridiculous, yet scary. My assumption is that this is pretty much the case now, and that’s why so many medical students have jumped in to protests while others have not.

The arithmetic above also may explain why virtually no student from TN has joined AIIMS students’ protests (not even symbolically). How? TN already has 69% reservation for the so called OBC, MBC and SC/ST students. I’m not sure of the exact split, but only 31% is for open competition. So it’s very likely that we’ll have the spread as follows

No of students who belong to OC = 30
No of students who belong to OBC/MBC = 60
No of students who belong to SC/ST = 10

Again there are those students from OBC and SC/ST who got their seats through open competition (meaning, they did not use their reservation when they entered UGS but may use it while entering PGS).
The majority of the existing students have already gotten their seats using reservations, and that’s how it’s been for over 15 years. Why the heck would they protest when what’s happening up north doesn’t have any effect on the existing system in TN? And that’s exactly why you see so many students from TN completely apathetic to this issue or in some cases show support to the proposed scheme. There’s also the anti-Brahmin sentiment fostered by the Dravidian parties for decades. A lot of students truly believe that Brahmins control most of the academia by crooked means. Others just don’t care as long as they are benefited by the scheme.
This is not to suggest that the AIIMS students and those who have joined the former’s protests are doing so just because they are personally affected, but that seems to be a major contributing factor. No disrespect to those students--few as it may be--who are protesting for meritocracy1 just for the sake of it, without any personal motive.
My claim above is supported by the fact the IIT students all over India have so far made no strong protest independently or with the med students (sure “they have shown support”). Then come the school students who don't seem to be bothered by this at all.
There are schools that have 500 plus students studying in them every year, if anyone should be concerned, it should be them above everyone else. The reason I mentioned about the schools having 500 and above students is to counter the claim that school students cannot act as organized as college students. +1 and +2 students are mostly 16 or 17. If those teenagers have cell phones and girlfriends/boyfriends, I would be appalled if their age is given as a reason for their lack of action.

What am I trying to say from all this? I’m saying that while the AIIMS students’ protests may be seen as the “awakening of the youth of a country”, it, sadly for India, is not. What you are witnessing, in my opinion, is just a bunch of students who are angered by the immediate “injustice” they are going to face. For, they did not oppose when the reservations were already in place for OBCs in TN and few other states. Did they not know that such reservations (actually more) were in TN or did they not care enough to voice against it? Neither of the scenarios paints a good picture of the current or the past students.3

Yes my pessimism is screaming loud here. These students were definitely at some level inspired by the young protesters of Nepal. They probably thought they can snowball a rally as days pass by. But to their dismay it’s turning in to a miserably failed coup with the killing of the entire militia. Yes, Manmohan singh has finally setup a committee to look in to the issue and I hope that there is a positive outcome notwithstanding the lack of support from other students and pro-reservation rallies.3

This is where we differ from Nepal and other countries that have had "successful" protests and rallies. India has a lot of people who just don’t care. The OC students in school would rather slog for 2 more hours a day than organize a protest or request a judicial enquiry through the court. Ironically though, this group is what is contributing to the development of India. They just work hard to beat the politics and bureaucracy that constantly stand as hurdles in their path. Some escape them and go abroad, but some, thanks to their complacency and parochial view of the world, stay back. Of course, there are those exceptional souls like Kalam and Kasthurirangan who neither escape the system nor surrender, but fight it out.
To restate what I said about IIT students earlier, the existing students don’t care, they are going out. Not many of them continue their higher studies (if they choose to) in India, another reason to not care.

I’m generally against protests of any kind, especially in India; because protests have long been carried out by people who don’t have a just cause to back them. So governments, for whatever reasons, have gotten used to ignoring those protests too. If AIIMS protests are going to be successful it may set a bad precedent. Threatening the government, whatever the cause is, should be entertained only to the extent of setting up a judicial enquiry in to the issue. And if the Supreme Court has already passed an unqualified judgment, there shouldn’t any more protest regarding the issue.4

Let’s see how this issue proceeds further. I’ve expressed my take on the reservation issue in my podcast. I don’t feel like spending the time to type it out (knowing that it’s been discussed well by a lot of others).

Disclaimer: The use of OC, OBC, SC/ST in the post above is simply to indicate what is used in government records. The grades and spread of people from various castes in the equations above don’t mean that OCs generally have a higher average or vice versa. The term FC (forward caste) is no longer used and it's been replaced with OC (other caste). OC is also used interchangeably with open category or open comptetion in related dicussions.

1 The way meritocracy is defined and assessed is debatable and needs a separate discussion.

2 The pro-reservation rallies are just political gimmicks as most of those who took part in the rally did not even know why they were in the rally (as shown in NDTV). Not to mention the fact that there was literally no student from AIIMS or other universities that are going to be affected by the scheme in question.

3 There werent any large scale protests in TN--when 69% reservations were introduced--for obvious reasons. Protests of this kind would have been disastrous in TN 15 years ago. Some of the students might have even been burnt alive by the anti-Brahmin DMK cadres.

4 Like that of Medha Patkar’s protest against the increase of height of the dams across the river Narmada. She even went to the extent of criticizing the Supreme Court’s latest judgment – a criminal offence.


hay ram said...

hello all u upper cast rams why are u afraid of us are we going to steel ur girl friends. no we just want to be like pls dont start leturing about merit to me we know how u guys are even getting passed in exams simply by putting a OM symbol on top of the paper.and the stupid medias like NDTV are completly controled by u upper castes so why crockdile matter what happens u brahmins are going to control this country.
u brahmins where responsible for this countrys missrys for centurys and last fifty years and u will be responsible for this countrys missrys even in the future. because u control every thing for us god he will judje us.and he will judje u to if according to ur brahminic manuneedhee if he exist he will deffenetly punish u for all ur conperisys against dalits and against the indian state

ansh said...

really insightful.I am a final yr student of IIT KGP and completely agree with you that why IITians are not protesting or as to why medicos are protesting.But one thing which I find strange is that Western countries surely have high demand of doctors.So as undergrds of IITs don't do their higher studies in India except IIMS similarly at least top medical students ahould go abroad for their PGs.This inability of utilization of avenues abroad has increased competition for a few PG seats in India too much.

Abhinav Gupta said...

Reservation politics is killing Indian talent and inviting more brain drain, nobody should keep silence about it provided he/she is truly Indian...

Suresh said...

Hey ram! No where have I mentioned that I'm a Brahmin but you've already concluded that I am. And if you wish to know, my caste certificate says I belong to a BC. What do I become now, a traitor?

If people can score higher marks by adding an OM symbol and you all know this, why didn't you do it too?
If the staff who corrects the exam is a muslim would OM still be an advantage?
And since when did computers start recognizing hand written OM symbols? Because the last time I checked all entrance exams (inluding IIT and AIIMS) have been multiple choice questions and the answers are scanned electronically.
Check my Note 1, I have reserved my comments on assessing meritocracy too.
Brahmins are responsible for the country's miseries? I thought the muslim invaders and the British raj were. Most of the leaders of the freedom movement belonged to so called upper castes is a fact that I won't use to prove your ignorance, I'll let it slide.
Brahmins are also responsible for your poor grammar and spelling in English, aren't they?. I'm sure you didn't listen to my podcast or else you wouldn't be talking here at all.
Dalits don't belong to OBCs, they belong to SC or ST. In fact OBCs are the ones who inflict caste baste subjugation on dalits and the current scheme is rewarding them for their act.
Anyway, you don't seem to have any insight on the issue, you're just an immature idiot who cannot take responsibilites of for his own mishaps.

Ansh: The problem is that it's harder for medical students to join PGS abroad. There is a lot of difference in credentials between an Indian UG and a native UG in medicine. The second issue is with funding, it's harder for medical students to get financial aid. But a significant portion of the toppers fly abroad to do UG there.

Abhinav: As the AIIMS students assert, reservations don't pose a problem themselves, it's the criteria for reservations that irks them. Caste is such a fluid concept when it comes to urban education, yet that alone has been set as the benchmark for reservation with no analysis of its efficacy so far.
The government doesn't even have to conduct studies. Thanks for external funding there are scores of research articles and statistical data that shows the failure of the existing reservation scheme in meeting what it aims to.
People won't protest as long as it doesn't affect them. The rebel mentality is still dormant among majority of the Indian youth.

Thanks for your comments

Shumit said...


I think you are a casteist who talks a lot of bullshit. Brahmins, brahmins, got that community to blame for every problem of yours...those poor souls work extra hard to earn the same education that you possibly earn by just passing your exams dude. So relax and take a chill pill Ram cos you don't know shit...just work on your english grammer and that could possibly get a job working with a good call center or somethin. The author of this post has presented the issue fantastically.

axedoc2010 said...

what a load of bull! you know maybe if the people down south had protested when the quotas were impelemented in their respective states they would've recieved support. but if you keep shut and take it then whats the difference between humans and donkeys?
Also whoever says that the brightest among the medical community choose to go abroad doesn't know what he's talkin about.. dude i topped an all india medical entance exam and have been in the top 0.5% throughout, both during undergrad and to get into postgrad and i chose to stay in India. There are many like me. People leaving for the states are mostly those who have no idea what its like out there. its just a goose who they've heard lays a golden egg. You were born in this country for a reason. Stop running away.

Suresh said...

{{maybe if the people down south had protested when the quotas were impelemented in their respective states they would've recieved support}} - That's the whole point. They neither protested nor got any support.
That aside let's see what kind of support the current protesters have got: Who else is protesting with them? The IITs? No. The JNU students? No. No one else, apart from the parents and relatives of the students who are protesting now (that is the students who are directly and immediately affected by this issue).
The question you are raising (about the smugness of the majority of the youth) is exactly what I'm raising as well. Read well before you respond.

About you being a topper: I respect your hard work, but I fail to see how that supports your argument that most of the toppers are in India. Sure you could have been in the "top 0.5% of your university", but you don't represent all top medical students from all universities, let alone those from your university. Do you have the figures to support your argument?
Do I have the figures to prove that most toppers leave India? No. So, that argument is equally valid or equally vapid.
You're just being judgmental when you say that "people leaving for the states are mostly those who have no idea what its like out there". How do you know what it's like out there? While you believe what you learnt about the US institutions (good or bad) is true based on what you read/heard and/or probably seen, why do you refuse to give the same credibility to the judgment of those who have gone abroad? You’re brilliant because you think US is all bad, and they are chasing a mirage because they are lured by US’s alleged luxuries. All of us have our sources of information, level of risk and measure of outcome. You cannot judge theirs based on yours.

Please get out of the mentality that people who are leaving India are "running away". If you truly believe in global equality, I don't see what's wrong with treating a person in the US as opposed to someone in India? You don't complain when some doctors treat rich people and never the poor (if you do, well then). How is an Indian doctor treating rich Indians different from an Indian doctor treating ordinary Americans?
Nevertheless, I agree with you. Indian doctors who were educated in govt funded institutions should have a sense of gratitude and serve their community. But if they are just going to stay back and work for a private hospital, I don't see the point of them staying back at all. That aside, I know a lot of doctors who have gone abroad to do PGS and come to work in rural eye camps. So going abroad alone doesn’t make one less Indian.

Whether you like it or not our economy is dependent on US, among other such 'developed' nations. So, the whole cliché "he's working for America, shameless guy!" doesn't make good sense anymore. It's ironic that a lot of people think it's good to make t-shirts and sell them to America and Europe, but not so with being a s/w engineer in Bangalore or Boston. If all countries start securing their economies by not sharing commodities (human labour included), the world will come to a grinding halt.

Anyway, the blog post is mainly about the indifference of the majority of Indian youth in this issue; and the futility (as predicted by me and proven by the Govt’s announcement yesterday) of the on-going protests.

Thanks for your comments

தமிழ் சமத்துவம் said...

Tamils being driven out of TN, non-Tamils getting reserved in TN


I wish to bring to your attention that many backward castes, most backward caste listed in Tamil Nadu's reserved caste category speak language other than Tamil. The list is seen Tamil Nadu website

These includes countless communities where Telugu is spoken at home, also several Kannada speaking caste and Urdu Muslim communities who essentially speak Hindi.

The chairman of Tamil Nadu's minority commision is Pyarelal Jain appointed by Karunanidhi, a Hindi-speaking Jain.

Tamil Brahmins despite being the "biggest scoundrels" according to Karunanidhi are still Tamils. How is that Karunanidhi is reaching out even to North Indians for votes by printing Hindi pamphlets in last election. Why is DMK hating Tamil Brahmins but at the sametime reaching out for North Indians residing in TN.

Many CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu continue to impose Hindi (as compulsory subject), while Tamil can be conveniently skipped. This is sharp contrast to Karnataka where all schools including CBSE school which dont teach Kannada as compulsory subject will be de-recognized. Karunanidhi has come to power the 4th time now. Still the Hindi impositition in CBSE flourishes.

Why are Tamil Nadu's ports of entry i.e airports and ports staffed by people who speak Hindi and dont know Tamil?

Why has Karunidhi failed on his promise to have mandatory Tamil annoucements on all Tamil Nadu flights.

Recently there was court case against use of Tamil as official language in TN and also opposition. Many people who oppose this are also covered under Tamil Nadu reservation.

Why are evils such as 2-tumbler system and seperate well system so prevelent in Southern TN where there is virtually no 'scoundrel' Brahmins left. It seems that amoung BC caste there is lot of descrimination and Dalits are still suffering while the bloody TN govt, Karunidhi etc are wantonly ignoring and supporting this.

It all looks like that the reservation policy is the most convenient means by "Tamil" politicians to destroy Tamil, Tamil society for their personal gains.

Tamil patriots would have done something great if they had reservation for one Tamil caste in TN rather than commercial certificates which many non-Tamil speaker can purchase.

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