I don't get it. Until a few weeks ago, I thought the additional 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBC) affected a whole lot more folks. Someone posted a comment cum link on my blog seeking support for an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) student initiated effort protesting against Arjun Singh's quota capers. Many Indian Institute of Management (IIM) students (or were they former) too made noises.
And yet, the only people protesting the hardest seem to be the doctors. Whose being on the streets unfortunately has the maximum impact on the people they are suppposed to serve, typically poor patients needing medical attention. Often urgent. And they look like the villians in the story.
That has not stopped them. Medical students from West Bengal and Bihar to Delhi and Mumbai, they are uniting to take on the government. Even Mangalore ! And the momentum only seems to be gaining. Students are talking of stepping up their efforts and creating a nationwide movement.
Amazing Rallying Powers
The medicos seem to be united regardless of their backgrounds. I quote one, from the DNA newspaper.."Dr Rudra who finished his internship at KEM medical college last year and belongs to the OBC caste said, “All students have realised that reservation is a game of votes. I belong to an OBC caste and I don’t need reservations. Reservations should be based on economic basis. My friends, who are also OBC’s, have also come out to protest.”
But the OBC problem affects a lot more people. The government wants to make the 27 per cent OBC reservation in 20 central universities, the IITs, IIMs and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The total quota will then stand at 49.5 per cent. And its the medicos who are hitting the streets all over the country.
As amazed as I am with the medical student fraternity's ability to organise and mass-rally, I continue to be a little puzzled as to the reason for the silence on the part of the other constituencies. The doctors and interns have more to lose than engineers and management graduates, unfortunately. Public ire will not turn against a IIM grad for hitting the streets. It will against doctors for staying away from work. The doctors are in a dangerous Catch 22 here.
Dr P Makes A Point
And as I wonder, I have one solid response from Dr P, a doctor based, lets say, in north India. He is pretty upset about the OBC issue. Though he has been corresponding with me on, other, professional issues. I put the same question to him and I reproduce his response which I received a few hours ago.
"Anyway, coming to a very pertinent question that you have raised here. As a doctor (and exam appearing), I have full reason to be circumspect. The majority of the seats are competitive and the pass percentage is FAR less than what is needed for IIT's or other Regional Colleges.
Hence there is more competition. I am told that most of the students do manage to get in Engineering. Look at this way too. With the proliferation of the colleges in South (Karnataka/ Tamil Nadu), it is easier to get a donation seat cheaper than Medicine. The similar donation runs in couple of lakhs for Medicine/ Surgery or any other branch."
The Lure Of Money
"Further, most of the Engineers opt for MBA. Which is easier for them. Making a career switch for Medicine is difficult. For the same reason, I opted out of IAS preprations. I'd rather work in a hospital (and preferably in a teaching institue) than push files.
This could be one reason. From this session onwards, one of my juniors, paid 48 lakhs in XXXX, Chennai for a M.D. General Medicine seat. One of the other juniours paid roughly Rs 25+ in YYYY, Tamil Nadu. Hence, the competitive pressures to get the sarkari funded seats is high. Where the fees is subsidised."
I can empathise with what Dr P is saying. And that makes me wonder whether simple demand-supply economics is what is keeping the engineers and management graduates silent. Make a noise but only to the extent that your life could really be affected. After all, you have Plan A, Plan B etc. Nothing wrong in that. Most of us have our lives to lead, including journalists !
Smart as they are, I don't expect a first year IIM graduate to descend to Jantar Mantar in the scorching Delhi heat. Protests unfortunately have to be held in the middle of the day, when temperatures could touch 45 degrees. Especially, when summer means a month spent poring over bill receivables in Citibank ! Or, maybe more dramatic like structuring Alipine convertibles in Goldman Sach's Zurich office. Okay, no more bitching !
Here's The Math
Back to Dr P. Where he reminds us of same basic numbers. "Privatisation of health care delivery has adversely affected the rural health care. If someone has "invested" a particular sum to "educate" himself through the specialisation (which again makes no sense for a developing country like India), he would want to re coup his "investments". It is a no brainer."
Dr P concludes by making an interesting point, about doctors leading revolutions..yes, Dr A, you did remind me, for a brief moment, of another doctor who abandoned his comfortable existence decades ago in south America to become one..yes, I refer to Che Guevera. Anyway, to return to Dr A, before one gets carried away on an uncharted idealistic journey.
"This remains my point of view. Let's take it this way. Doctors have been at the forefront of "revolutions". Till the time, there is radicalisation of the "movement", nothing would happen. I am studying and waiting for the oppurtune time. I wouldn't want to see a repeat of Mandal 1 where immolations had become fashionable. Mere "democratic forms of protest" like rallies isn't going to work. Strikes would. Unless they come in with ESMA. The future looks bleak."
Let me admit that apart from a friend or two, my association with the medical fraternity is restricted to meeting them when in dire need of medical assistance. So, I have no special love for them. And I am quite amazed at the sincerity with which some of them have been hitting out at the government over the OBC issue. And the revolutionary fervour..to take Dr P's point a step forward.
This War Will Not Be Fought In Cyber Space Or Through SMSs, It Will Be Fought On The Streets
Let me pick up a quote from Jam TV, a part of Jam Magazine. This interview was recorded this afternoon in Bombay following another round of protests in Azad Maidan. The protests met with a unusually brutal, almost pre-meditated response from the police.
The doctor/medical student being interviewed here says, "There is no point in discussing reservation in drawing rooms. These people don't understand this language. This battle will not be fought in cyber space, through SMSs or on mobile phones. It will be fought on the streets. Our time is precious too. We have to come out now and fight this..." I am moved, fellow bloggers ?