India Intelligence Report

   Govt Softens & Threatens on Quota, Protests Spread


The Government seemed to soften its stand a bit inviting striking students and doctors for talks even as Health Minister Anbumani Ramdoss vainly threatened to dismiss striking doctors even though there is a shortage of doctors in the country. Human Resources Department Minister Arjun Singh seemed determined to wreck Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even inviting students for a conversation, which was promptly declined. Many placards lampooned him as a devil and newspaper editorials called for his ouster. 

Protests spread to Gujarat and many other parts of the country causing severe pressure on hospitals and patients. However, senior doctors supported the students and their juniors and even cancelled all leave plans to stay on duty to ease the shortage of medical help. Several associations of doctors agreed with the striking doctors’ point of view and it remains to be seen if the Government will take them to court citing previous Supreme Court orders that explicitly bans strikes by doctors.

In Maharashtra, a senior police official responsible for brutally assaulting peaceful protestors was suspended and an investigation has been ordered to determine the reasons for the brutish behavior of the police. One student suffered a fractured leg and others who were beaten up badly came back to protest with casts, bandages, and fresh wounds. Almost all political parties including some of the allies of the Government have criticized the Government and police behavior.

The Congress fielded their Parliamentary leader and Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee to diffuse the tensions created by Arjun Singh. He reiterated that the Government does not want to help one section of the population over another and claimed, “Even the striking students and doctors are our children.” He proposed the plan to increase the number of seats so that Arjun Singh’s reservation plan can go forward but did not address the issues of paucity of teachers, seats, equipment, and facilities for such a plan. Moreover, it does not address the fundamental position raised by most intellectuals to the quota reservation policy—quality. 

Not to be left out of the contest of coming up with backward-looking concepts, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekara Reddy has proposed a 15% quota for Non-Resident Indians. It is not the first time that Reddy has proposed and implemented a hair-brained policy. He proposed a quota for Muslims which was shot down by the High Court, offered free electricity that has essentially bankrupted the Electricity Board of his state, farmers abused water tables to raise cash crops requiring a lot of water and depleted water tables, allowed construction of fish tanks in environmentally-sensitive areas, and also conducted a no-holds negotiation with armed naxals which boomeranged on the nation very badly.