BJP supports in TN and opposes in Odisha reservation of seats in medical colleges for govt schools

Odisha is 2nd state after Tamil Nadu to reserve seats in medical and engineering colleges for students passing out of govt schools. Paradoxically BJP supports it in one state and opposes in another

Baripada Medical College (Photo courtesy: social media)
Baripada Medical College (Photo courtesy: social media)

SN Sahu

The decision of the Odisha Government to reserve seats in Engineering and Medical Colleges of the State for students passing out from Government schools makes it the second state after Tamil Nadu, which reserved 7.5 per cent seats on 18th November 2020 for students of Government schools, to do so.

The announcement of the Odisha Government was followed by a decision of the State Cabinet on 28th December that a committee headed by a retired judge of the High Court and comprising a renowned educationist and another eminent person would give a report in three months recommending how to implement it.

The decision was welcomed widely in the state. Sudhir
Rout from Berahampur reflected popular sentiment when he hoped that the decision would “help improve academic standards of Govt schools and colleges”. Leading Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Pranab Prakash Das tweeted on 28th December, “As a student of Govt School, I am elated that we could create a #LevelPlayingField for poor but meritorious students,
especially from rural areas, whose dreams die prematurely. Now these
students can dream BIG irrespective of whether they have access to
coaching centres or not”.

As has been observed by both experts and journalists like P Sainath, one has to visit government schools to find students from SC-ST communities and those from socially and educationally deprived sections, because government schools continue to provide affordable education. These students seldom have the wherewithal to access coaching facilities, which students from cities and well-off families get easily. Therefore, the sole purpose behind the idea for reserving seats for students of Government schools is to give them a level playing field.

Of late because of commercialisation of education and market determined reference of educationally and financially well off parents to admit their children in privately funded expensive public schools, the image and standards of Government schools have suffered severe erosion. And yet these schools are preferred by students whose
parents cannot afford to admit them in expensive schools.

It is for these reasons that the National Education Policy 2020 rightly talks about reestablishment of “the credibility of Government schools”. The Government of Odisha by taking a bold and historic decision to reserve seats for students of Government schools in engineering and medical colleges is taking steps to restore the credibility of of Government schools”.

Curiously, the decision has been recklessly criticised by the Odisha State unit of the BJP. It has expressed surprise at such “weird suggestions” and wanted to know who tendered such advice to the Government. The BJP spokesperson also wondered if reservation of seats for govt. school students could be held constitutionally valid. It was claimed by the party that such a decision of the State Government would not stand judicial scrutiny.

Paradoxically BJP, which is an ally of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, is not critical of the similar decision taken by the TN Government. Rather it is claiming that the idea to reserve seats in engineering and medical colleges for students of Government schools originated from the BJP in 2017.

Indeed J.P. Nadda, the current BJP President, during his tenure as Union Health Minister, approved such reservation. Responding to queries he had said in 2017, “ I have told them that for students of the state board or those from a rural background, they (state government) have full freedom to have their own reservation policy,"

The pro-BJP digital platform also carried a report on 2nd November, 2020 under the caption, “BJP Had Mooted Reservation For Tamil Nadu Government School Students In Medical College Seats Way Back In 2017, Says spokesperson SG Suryah”.

It is also understood that the Tamil Nadu Bill providing reservation for students of Government schools got the assent of the Governor of the State after he obtained legal clearance from the Attorney General of India.

The opposition by the Odisha unit of the BJP , therefore, runs counter to the party’s own stand. While it shows the confusion and double standards in BJP ranks, the BJD must take this opportunity to educate the people and let them know of BJP’s duplicity.

(Views expressed are the author’s own)

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