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Affirmative inaction

Institutional responsibility towards reserved category students doesn’t end with seats

Written by The Indian Express |
March 8, 2012 3:49:27 am

Institutional responsibility towards reserved category students doesn’t end with seats

The suicide of a first-year reserved category student at AIIMS serves as a tragic reminder that reservations do not equal affirmative action. The death of Anil Kumar Meena,who was bright enough to get into one of the most selective educational institutions in the country but was allegedly unable to cope with the transition from learning in Hindi to English,should be a wake-up call for AIIMS and other institutes.

It’s commendable that the IITs and AIIMS conduct their examinations in both English and Hindi,offering students without the opportunity to access decent English-medium education a path into the nation’s best institutions. But merely offering a path in is not enough — these institutes must also ensure that the students with weak English-language skills get the support they need to make the transition easy. The Sukhadeo Thorat Committee,which was constituted in 2006 to investigate allegations of differential treatment of SC/ST students at the medical school,had noted then that there was no mechanism to offer remedial English classes for students having difficulty with the language,or a special cell to deal with the particular issues that SC/ ST students might face — academic or otherwise. These are recommendations that AIIMS would do well to implement soon.

While the AIIMS sub dean has asserted that the institute does hold English lessons,these are optional,which is clearly not good enough. The IITs,for instance,mandate a language skills course in the first semester for all their students,with a mechanism to provide special instruction to students with poor English skills. Reservations may have been successful in creating equal opportunities for students coming from backward communities. But without true affirmative action that is cognisant of the myriad issues faced by these students after they have entered top institutions,the project remains incomplete.

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