For years,the AIIMS entrance examination has been the hunt for the best. But students from the Muslim-dominated northern region of Kerala have been cracking the code consistently for the last five years,improving each year to make it to the much sought-after medical institute.
Of the 72 who cleared the MBBS entrance this year there were more than 80,000 candidates Kerala accounted for 27,a healthy 37.5 per cent.
Twelve of the 27 are Muslims. And the majority hail from districts across Malabar Malappuram,Kozhikode,Kannur,Palakkad and parts of Thrissur. The count of students from Kerala has been increasing steadily at AIIMS 12 in 2008,16 in 2009,14 in 2010,25 in 2011,27 in 2012.
Students say the medicine craze is a fairly recent phenomenon in the region. Most say they will be the first doctors in their families.
Anshida K,daughter of a businessman from Malappuram who made it to AIIMS this year,said: For so many years,we produced the highest numbers of nurses from South Kerala. Now,we will give the country doctors as well.
AIIMS authorities say they are yet to analyse admission data but admit to the growing representation from Kerala. Director Dr R C Deka said: Of course,they (students from Kerala) are there. It is an open test for the entire country. The most brilliant ones make it. Over 80,000 students took the test,and we believe the best among them made it to AIIMS.
AIIMS spokesperson Dr Y K Gupta said,It is a heartening trend to see so many students opting for pure sciences in general,and medicine in particular,for a career not driven solely by money. There are also a lot of girls. This is a welcome change from the perception that girls dont opt for professional courses. Students from this area must have studied hard to make it here.
Anthropologist Vinod Krishnan T Y,associate programme coordinator with the Centre for Research and Education for Social Transformation (CREST) an autonomous institute under the Kerala government which organised an orientation programme for first-year AIIMS students,said the growing numbers from suburban regions of Kerala is a remarkable trend.
He said it could be attributed to the introduction of the OBC quota in the non-creamy layer. Almost the entire OBC quota is taken by Muslims from North Kerala,a trend which we do not see in other reservations like the SC and ST categories. The aspiration levels in the community are clearly high,and they are capitalising on this opportunity, he said.
In the 2012 batch,nine of the 19 seats in the OBC quota have been taken by Muslims from Kerala.
A majority of the successful candidates dropped a year after school to enrol full-time at coaching institutes. Unlike the Kota culture,the area has not seen a proliferation of coaching centres but three have established themselves in the last few years.
The Brilliant Study Centre in Pala has produced 16 successful candidates this year. From Prof P C Thomas Classes in Thrissur,nine cleared the entrance. The Science Institute in Manjeri,Malappuram accounted for the remaining two of the 27 who made it to AIIMS this year.
Ambareesh M D,one of the successful candidates,said: I knew people from my neighbourhood who had cleared the AIIMS exam last year. All were from my coaching institute. I want to become a doctor,I want to do research and this is the best medical college in the country.
Speaking to The Indian Express from the Brilliant Study Centre in Kerala,Director Stephen Thomas said: Last year,we produced eight successful candidates. This year,it has doubled. Though we get students from all over Kerala,those from the Malabar region are Muslims,and mostly girls. Aspiration levels of the community have been rising like never before,and we can see that in the results. They are motivated and study extremely hard.
The girls say that being away from home could have been an issue five years ago but now nothing beats attending the best medical college in the country.
Fatima Mohammad Ali,who cleared the entrance exam this year from Manjeri in Malappuram,dropped a year after clearing her school boards. She enrolled with the Prof P C Thomas Classes in Thrissur. If we are clearing AIIMS,where is the question of distance from home? My parents started talking about me becoming a doctor after Class X. Pure sciences were the most coveted courses in North Kerala until five years ago. Now people want their daughters to become doctors, she said.
(With inputs from Ardhra Nair)