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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

NEET quota: Govt accepts report of panel, Rs 8-lakh EWS limit will stay

In its affidavit filed in a matter related to admissions for NEET-PG, the Centre said the panel has recommended that "only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation".

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi |
Updated: January 3, 2022 2:21:29 am
neet examThe board said the exam has been delayed as admissions for the 2021-22 batch students – those who took NEET MDS 2021 – are yet to be completed. (File Photo/Representational)

The government has decided to accept a recommendation made by a committee set up by it, to retain the annual income limit at Rs 8 lakh for the EWS quota for NEET-PG (All India Quota) for the current admission cycle.

Recommendations on how to apply the income limit will be adopted from the next admission cycle.

The government said this in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court which is seized of petitions challenging the EWS issue in NEET-AIQ.

The petitions have challenged the July 29 notification of the Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) providing 27 per cent reservation for other backward classes (OBCs) and 10 per cent for the economically weaker sections (EWS).

After the court asked the Centre to explain how it had arrived at the Rs-8-lakh criteria, the government, on November 25, 2021, asked for four weeks’ time to revisit the criteria.

On December 31, the government filed an affidavit saying it had, in accordance with its assurance to the court, set up a three-member committee comprising former finance secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, ICSSR Member Secretary V K Malhotra, and Principal Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal to examine the issue.

The committee had submitted its report on December 31, and “the central government has decided to accept the recommendation…including the recommendation of applying the new criteria prospectively”, the affidavit said.

The government has attached the committee’s report, which favours the continuation of the Rs 8 lakh limit that has been used to determine the quota ceiling since 2019, but suggests certain changes with regard to its application.

According to the report, “The current gross annual family income limit for EWS of Rs 8.00 lakh or less may be retained. In other words only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 Lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation. The definition of ‘family’ and income would remain same as those in the OM (office memorandum) dated 17th January 2019.”

It added that “EWS may, however exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above”, and suggested that “the residential asset criteria may altogether be removed”.

On the question as to from which year the changes must be adopted and made applicable, the committee said the existing system had been in place since 2019, and that “by the time…Court started examining the said question and the Central Government decided to revisit the criteria by appointing this Committee, the process with respect to some appointments / admissions have taken place or must have been at an irreversible and advanced stage.

“The existing system…if disturbed at the end or fag-end of the process would create more complications than expected both for the beneficiaries as well as for the authorities”, it said.

Also, “in case of admissions to educational institutions, sudden adoption of a new criteria inevitably and necessarily would delay the process by several months which would have an inevitable cascading effect on all future admissions and educational activities / teaching / examination which are time bound under various statutory / judicial time prescriptions”.

Therefore, the committee said, “it is completely unadvisable and impractical to apply the new criteria (which are being recommended in this report) and change the goal post in the midst of the on-going processes resulting in inevitable delay and avoidable complications.

“When the existing system is ongoing since 2019, no serious prejudice would be caused if it continues for this year as well. Changing the criteria midway is also bound to result in spate of litigations in various courts across the country by the people / persons whose eligibility would change suddenly.”

The report said that “after analysing the pros and cons…and after giving serious consideration”, the committee was recommending that “the existing and on-going criteria in every on-going process where EWS reservation is available, be continued and the criteria recommended in this Report may be made applicable from next advertisement / admission cycle”.

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