Explainer: 27% reservation to OBCs and 10% to EWS in medical courses

Activists have pointed out that thousands of students have been denied admissions to medical courses in the past due to non-implementation of the requisite 27% reservation for OBCs in the All India Quota.
Three college students looking into a book wearing backpacks standing in a college corridor
Three college students looking into a book wearing backpacks standing in a college corridor
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The Union government on Thursday, July 29, announced 27% reservation for OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and 10% reservation for EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) in the All India Quota scheme (AIQ) for undergraduate and postgraduate students in medical and dental courses. These courses include MBBS, MD, MS,  Diploma, BDS and MDS. The new reservation policy will come into effect from the current year. Nearly 5,550 students will benefit from this policy, the government said.

Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Our government has taken a landmark decision for providing 27% reservation for OBCs and 10% reservation for Economically Weaker Section in the All India Quota Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses from the current academic year.” He further added, “This will immensely help thousands of our youth every year get better opportunities and create a new paradigm of social justice in our country.”

The government has claimed that the policy will  benefit nearly 1500 OBC students in MBBS and 2500 OBC students in post graduation every year, and also around 550 EWS students in MBBS and around 1000 EWS students in post graduation.

This move comes days after the Madras High Court had directed the Union government to make known its stand on the implementation of OBC reservation under the All India Quota (AIQ) in the seats surrendered by Tamil Nadu for admission in medical and dental courses for 2021-22. The court was hearing a contempt petition filed by the DMK which had said that while Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations clearly contemplate adherence to state reservation laws while filling up the seats, the Union government has refused to follow the state law pertaining to OBC reservation in the all India quota. 

What is the All India Quota?

The All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any state who aspired to study in a good medical college located in another state. The All India Quota comprises 15% of total available UG seats and 50% of total available PG seats in government medical colleges. 

Initially, there was no reservation in the AIQ Scheme up to 2007. In 2007, the Supreme Court introduced a reservation of 15% for Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for Scheduled Tribes in the AIQ Scheme. When the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007, providing for a uniform 27% reservation to OBCs, the same was implemented in all the Central Educational Institutions like Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Harding Medical College, Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University among others. However, this was not extended to the AIQ seats of state medical and dental colleges. Activists have pointed out that over the years, this has led to thousands of seats being denied to OBC students, as the state government reservation policies would have been applied if these seats had remained with the state-run colleges instead of being pooled into the AIQ. 

Under the new policy, the OBC students from across the country can avail reservation in the AIQ scheme to compete for seats in any state. “Being a Central Scheme, the Central List of OBCs shall be used for this reservation,” a statement from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said. 

The EWS reservation was introduced through a constitutional amendment made in 2019, which enabled the provision of 10% reservation for the EWS category. While seats in medical and dental colleges were increased accordingly from 2019 to 2021 to accommodate the additional EWS reservation without reducing the number of seats available for unreserved category, the EWS reservation had not been extended to the AIQ scheme till now. 

The Union government has claimed that in the last six years, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56% from 54,348 seats in 2014 to 84,649 seats in 2020, and the number of PG seats have increased by 80% from 30,191 seats in 2014 to 54,275 seats in 2020. During the same period, 179 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has 558 (289 government and 269 private) medical colleges, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

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