Maharashtra Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh last week announced the repealing of the 70:30 regional quota in admission to state medical colleges in favour of a ‘One Maharashtra, One Merit’ principle. The medical fraternity, including student organisations, welcomed the move as the successful conclusion of a long battle for seats in colleges.
What was the so-called 70:30 quota?
It was a longstanding policy of regional reservation of seats in medical colleges. For the purposes of this quota in admissions, the state was divided into three regions: Marathwada, Vidarbha, and Rest of Maharashtra (RoM). As per the 70:30 policy formula, 70% of seats were reserved for locals (from that region), and 30% were available to candidates belonging to other parts of the state.
What grievances did students have about this quota?
The number of colleges – and the number of seats – available in the three regions are different. Marathwada has fewer colleges and fewer seats, which puts students from this region at a disadvantage compared to students availing the 70% quota elsewhere. This would often result in complaints about even meritorious students failing to get admission – also because their options outside their region were restricted to just 30% of seats.
What has changed now?
As per the amendments to the 2016 Act published by the state government, all seats shall be made available to all candidates from the state, and shall be filled on the basis of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) merit list.
As earlier, 25% seats in unaided private professional educational Institutions shall be allotted to candidates from the constitutional reservation category.
Thirty per cent of seats at the disposal of the competent authority shall be reserved for women in all courses. The same provisions will apply to ayurveda, unani, homeopathy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, and B.Sc Nursing courses.
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How are medical colleges distributed in the state?
The RoM region has 13 government colleges and 14 private colleges; Vidarbha (which has cities such as Nagpur, Amravati, Akola, Chandrapur, Yavatmal, Gondia) has six government and three private colleges; and Marathwada (Aurangabad, Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, etc.) has only four government colleges and two private colleges, one of which is a minority (Muslim) college.
The government’s Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) has proposed some 12 new government colleges, including in cities of Marathwada such as Parbhani and Osmanabad, but it may be some years before they are operational.
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But why do the numbers of medical colleges differ from region to region?
Among other things, political considerations have over the decades determined the pace and focus of development, including the setting up of medical colleges in the state.
A former government official who has seen these political pulls and pushes closely for many years, said: “Earlier, three colleges were started at a time, one in each of these regions. But this changed in subsequent years. Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, for example, was committed to the development of Vidarbha, and led the efforts to start government medical colleges in Chandrapur (2015) and Gondia (2016).
“Then Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan pushed for a college in his constituency, Jalgaon. And Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had a considerable role in getting GMC Baramati sanctioned and started in 2019.”
According to this official, there was considerable resentment among people in Marathwada, where medical seats did not increase for many years. The current Minister for Medical Education, Deshmukh, belongs to Latur in Marathwada.
OK, but why was this system of reservation introduced in the first place?
The reservation was introduced nearly 20 years ago, when nearly all the seats would be filled by local students only. Due to norms that allowed medical colleges to only admit students from select regions, meritorious students from other zones were deprived of seats in the sought-after colleges in Mumbai, Pune, and Nagpur.
The reservation was seen as a more fair system. It also allowed students from various parts of the state to mingle with and get to know each other.
“Earlier, exams were conducted by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences. The all-India NEET was introduced in 2017, after which this provision should have been removed. NEET was introduced to ensure merit-based admissions, which could not have co-existed with region-based reservations. The fight had been ongoing for three years,” T P Lahane, Director, DMER, said.
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