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Quota for undeserving? Here’s a reality check

Sunday 6 August 2006, by CHISHTI*Seema

The quota debate is often presented as a conflict between equity versus excellence. The chorus of the anti-quota protests: get in more OBCs, SC/STs, you dilute the standards of an institution since they are “undeserving.”

The facts, however, aren’t as black and white.

Using the Right to Information Act, The Sunday Express obtained data for what are considered the two most competitive examinations in the country the AIIMS and the IIT entrance examinations for 2006 and 2005.

An estimated 75,000 students vie for the 50 seats in AIIMS while 3.5 lakh for the 5000 seats in the seven IITs, the Institute of Technology at BHU and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad.

The results show that for both the AIIMS and IIT entrance exams, the gap between the toppers in “general” and “reserved” lists is large, between 20 and 30 percentage points.

But when it comes to the last successful candidate in both the lists for both the institutions, the gap narrows to almost half of that.

AIIMS entrance results for both 2005 and 2006 show that SC/ST students would not have got in at all had there not been quotas for them. Because the topper in the SC list for both the years scored lower than the last successful candidate in the general list-by just eight per cent in 2005 and four per cent this year.

This is, significantly, not the case in the IIT entrance exam in both 2005 and 2006. Many SC/ST students would have got in even if there were no quotas-several have scored higher than the general students.

Given that the AIIMS pie is tiny-only 50 seats each year, of which 34 are for general and only seven and four for SC and STs respectively-as compared to almost 5000 seats in the seven IITs, this also lends credence to the view that the larger the pie, the higher the chances that the principles of equity and excellence won’t come into conflict.

This also makes a strong case for an increase in the number of seats in higher-educational institutions.

Says K. Srinath Reddy, Head of Cardiology at AIIMS: “I am not surprised that the marks secured by the last qualified candidates are high, across the reserved lists as well. People forget that in addition to these entrance exam marks, there are qualifying marks, so all candidates admitted have 60 percent in their school-leaving exams, and at least 50 per cent in case of SC/STs. Failed or below par SC/ST candidates or General candidates are not chosen.”

Similarly in IITs. All those who have made it, General, SC or ST, have secured at least 55 percent in their 10+2 qualifying exam.

See online : The Indian Express

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