Supreme Court tells Centre to decide on reservations in super-speciality posts
Don't play with lives
Although the Supreme Court has left it to the Centre to decide whether there should be reservations in super-speciality posts such as those at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), implementing such quotas will be wrong. Super-speciality posts, especially in medicine, require an degree of expertise and excellence that cannot be compromised. This is all the more so because such medical specialists are in the profession of saving human lives. Their patients expect the very best of medical care. Quotas here would dilute the quality of service and possibly lead to unfortunate accidents.
By its very definition a specialist is a professional who possesses knowledge and skills beyond the ordinary. In fact, merit is an automatic prerequisite for such a post. Naturally, all professionals in any given profession cannot become specialists. This fact is sufficient to exclude super-speciality posts from the remit of reservations. While the latter aims to empower the disadvantaged, the former is meant to recognise the most meritorious. As it is, the healthcare sector in India suffers from an acute shortage of specialist medical practitioners. According to the Planning Commission, the country`s government-run healthcare system faces an 88% shortage of specialist doctors.
In such a scenario, imposing quotas on super-specialist posts would further hamstring the healthcare sector. In fact, instead of pushing reservations, the government should invest in capacity building and training. This would not only boost the woefully inadequate human resources in medicine, but also provide enough opportunities to candidates from disadvantaged sections of society to rise to the top of the medical profession without compromising on merit. Similarly, super-speciality posts in other fields such as science, engineering, armed forces, etc need to be firewalled from reservations. Otherwise, India`s human capital and dreams of emerging as a knowledge hub will lie in tatters.
Let's counteract prejudice
The Supreme Court has wisely ruled that giving quotas in super-speciality medical posts is the Centre's call. Government should now proceed and implement reservation in all concerned institutions. The argument that reservation should only be for mundane or routine jobs and not for technical posts is rather dim-witted, and based on the conceited belief that there are no adequately qualified people in less privileged groups who can aspire to so-called speciality posts.
Consider, for instance, the ban on reservation for less privileged groups in faculty positions in AIIMS. Hundreds of students of less privileged groups have successfully passed graduate and postgraduate medical courses across many institutes of national excellence, including AIIMS. Reservation would ensure that they would also have a reasonable chance for claiming a fair share of faculty seats, without any discrimination. And how does quality suffer when all aspirants from less privileged groups also go through the same rigorous selection process for super-speciality posts?
Another major issue here is the reintroduction of a professional caste hierarchy in certain areas like medicine, engineering and other scientific and technical posts by designating them as super-speciality posts. This is a dangerous trend because it is in higher knowledge institutions that complaints of discrimination and prejudice against the less privileged have been most rampant. For instance, a recent report showed that people from scheduled tribes constituted less than 3% of teaching staff in these institutions. Data from the University Grants Commission also shows that the share of professors from scheduled castes in central universities has come down sharply in recent years. Though the reason cited by selectors is the lack of qualified candidates from this group, this is also used as an alibi to scuttle reservation and transfer seats to the open category candidates.