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News: The Prime Minister’s recently made observation about the plight of the Indian medical students returning from Ukraine is on point.
Why are problems being faced in the education sector?
States are demanding reservation higher than 50%. It is demanded because most of the state’s population is eligible for reservation and goes beyond 50%.
For the political parties, higher reservation serves social justice and also leads to electoral benefit.
Rising new demands for reservation like preferences to students of rural schools, students of State Board schools, etc. For example, Tamil Nadu’s attempt to secure a 7.5% preference for governmental school students.
The demand for reservation arises due to the shortages in education or scarcity of seats. For example, 16 lakh candidates compete for 88,000 MBBS seats in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test.
What are the judiciary’s views?
Judiciary in the Balram (1972), Indra Sawhney (1992) and Maratha reservation (2021) cases has enunciated the principle of 50% reservation.
The Supreme Court believes that the reservations are an exception to the rule of equality, and cannot exceed the norm of 50%.
How these issues can be addressed?
There should be a legal right for Indians to have a medical education system. It should be accessible and affordable. For example, the right to health and to a good education is part of the right to life (Article 21), under our expanded conceptualisation of Fundamental Rights.
The education system should be expanded. It should be able to accommodate the youngsters who want to make this their profession.
The government should facilitate investment. It should promote employment of the talent. It should work to provide quality infrastructure in the education field.
The fee/pricing policy should be rationalized, and seats should be increased as the students are willing to pay.
There is a need for reform in the education related policies. There should not be unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions in the education field. For example, presently only trusts or societies provide education. Such restrictions drive the commercials into the black market.
The policy reforms should allow the market forces to operate. The demand and supply equilibrium will lead to benefits of pricing and quality.
The government can restructure tax benefits. It can make it viable to start and run medical colleges. Allow minority institutions too to avail the benefits of Section 80G of the Income Tax Act for donations to its college.
Providing scholarship should be made mandatory as the social commitment upon the institution.
The government should bring policies which keep into consideration reservation, total and partial scholarships. Such a policy should allow the institution to run with freedom and make a reasonable profit.
The government should focus on running its own colleges better.
Source: The post is based on an article “Changing the jurisprudence of scarcity” published in the Hindu on 22 March 2022