Reality Check India

On OBC reservation policy in medical education

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on June 21, 2020


A major development took place in Madras High Court on Friday June 19, 2020 when the Union Govt filed an affidavit agreeing to OBC reservation for admission to MBBS/PG Medical seats in the “All India Quota”.  A lot of misreporting is happening in the mainstream media. Look at these two conflicting reports :

OBC quota in medical seats only in central institutions: Govt informs HC  (Hindustan Times)

Centre says it is in favour of OBC quota in medical seats (The Hindu)

So which one is it?   I will try to explain the matter in simple terms in this article.  This issue is of monumental importance because Post Graduate Medical Studies is the highest echelon professional education degree you can aspire for in this country.

Writing on the reservation policies can be confusing because there are three parts to it.  The facts – you need to know how it operates regardless of whether it is desirable or not, how the beneficiaries are selected, qualifications, rules, etc.   The core principles – the first principles involved,   the anomalies, the judicial failures,  the contentious issues regarding equality, the boundary conditions, intra group issues, the merit arguments.  The political ramifications – how politics can congeal around these citizenship classes, inside vs outside groups,  alliance building where each group works to secure its gains, how the media mischief works.   I’ve read far too many articles about the reservation system where these are mixed up and end up in an incoherent jumble.  So lets begin.

The facts

How are doctors made in India, how many seats ?

I am going to leave out Dental, AYUSH (natural), and Veterinary — sorry guys!.  Just to keep it simple and use round numbers.

There are about 80,000 MBBS (undergraduate) seats and 30,000 MD (post graduate) seats.  The post graduate medical includes surgical MS and clinical MD and Diplomas. These distinctions are not important.

The key point :  The PG degree is seen as a must have for MBBS doctors.  You can see there is a giant funnel gate right there. Of the 80,000 doctors only 30,000 will go on to get a PG degree.  The competition is hence fierce and the professional rewards are high.  “MBBS doctor” is seen as a different brand.

How is the capacity distribution ,state, centre, private?

Most of the capacity is with the states roughly in 90:10 ratio. For undergraduate: The central govt medical colleges with capacity are the 15 AIIMS which have roughly 1000 seats put together, then the “Delhi and Union Territory colleges” come up with another 500.   This is the same for PG as well.

In the state capacity, the states have govt colleges, private non-minority, and private-minority colleges.  The government capacity is very affordable and is highly sought after  the private colleges are super expensive and have an elaborate cross-subsidy scheme. They surrender a small portion to the govt at a discount and compensate for the tuition loss by charging hefty tuition in the private quotas.

The south has a much higher state govt as well as private capacity.  The private capacity is a money spinner  a lot of politicians are players in this domain and there are lot of business monopoly games guarded by a complicated and arbitrary  NOC/ EC (Essentiality, No Objection) process. This provides these players to extract a monopoly price from this demand. The very small batch sizes 50, 100 intake in UG makes private medical even more expensive.  The north-south  gap is closing but this is the current lay of the land.

What is this All India quota business ?

To offset the regional imbalances – the central govt instituted an All India Quota in both UG and PG capacity.  Per this rule 15% of UG seats and 50% of PG seats are taken from the states and filled using a common merit list. This allows ANY state candidate to apply to these seats.


  • 1984 : First broached idea of All India Quota at 25%  (Dr Pradeep Jain case )
  • 2003 : PG quota for AIQ increased to 50% (Saurabh Chowdhry –  CJI Khare time a TMA Pai judge)
  • 2007 : 22.% quota for SC/ST within the 50% AIQ (Abhay Nath)

Is this related to NEET?

No this is not related to NEET. Even prior to NEET the AIQ existed – the common exam used to be called AIPMT (for both UG and PG).

What is the reservation policy  – it is too confusing ?

The All India Quota fills two capacities —

  1. seats in central govt controlled institutions (AIIMS, PGIMER, Maulana Azad etc)
  2. seats taken from each state using the 15% UG/ 50% PG formula.

In (1) the central institutions the standard central govt reservation scheme is followed – same as IITs.  This breakup is : 15% SC/ 7.5% ST/ 27% OBC and now 10% FC-EWS , 40% Open Competition. CHECK. No Problem here.

In (2), only the SC/ST is followed.  The breakup is : 15% SC/ 7.5% ST 77.5% Open Competition.  Problem here.

In the PG level there are roughly 1,000 seats in (1)  and 10,000 seats in (2). Now let me introduce the issue.

The OBC organizations demand that in (2) the 27% OBC reservations be imposed.   

Can you simplify this further ?

To simplify remove the UG from the contention due to the fact that only 15% is in this category and there is no funnel-gate.  Only focus on the PG capacity to zoom in on the crux.

In the 10,000 seats in the All India Quota for PG seats. The demand is to have OBC reservation and shape that along the usual formula (SC/ST/OBC/EWS/Open) 

What happened in court in past week ?

The OBC organizations and the Tamilnadu parties filed a petition in the Supreme Court on May 29 2020 demanding that the ongoing admissions to PG Medical Courses be stopped and 27% OBC reservation be applied.   (link credit Bar And Bench). This was dismissed on the ground that only Fundamental Rights violations can be taken directly to the Supreme Court , the judges held this was not a fundamental rights case and tossed it to Madras High Court.  The parties immediately filed in the Madras High Court.  During the hearing the Central Govt Health Ministry filed an affidavit declaring that they are in favour of extending the 27% OBC quota in all seats and that they had filed a similar affidavit in another case already pending in Supreme Court since 2015 in a Writ Petition Saloni Kumari and Onr.

So the issue is back in the Supreme Court where the aforementioned Writ Petition is scheduled to be heard on July 7 2020.

What about the caveat about the overall 50% limit and existing seats cant be disturbed?

I would not think too much about it. This shows that neither the govt nor the judiciary has a “core” level insight into the issues involved.   In the Indian framework , what they do is keep the current capacity as-is and add extra capacity to one one group then declare that “why are you bothered? the number of seats are the same for you”. Just a sweetener.

Moreover, the 50% is incorrect, because the new limit is 60% after the FC-EWS quota.

The Tamilnadu sides want immediate imposition of the OBC quota by expelling the 27% unreserved doctors and carving out an exclusive quota. This is as per the scheme of things and a valid demand.  The Affidavit declares a rule  that the absolute number of seats currently available to the Unreserved (again this is Open competition available for OBC doctors as well) must not be reduced. This means the states have to cough up extra capacity by creating more PG Medical seats for OBC alone.  I dont see a huge problem with this – after all these are just MCI rules which dictate the seat capacity. That can be tweaked.

So what is the current situation for this year ?

The govt cited the COVID-19 crisis to claim that disrupting the 2020 PG Medical seats will cause suffering hence it appears that this year PG medical seats may be filled without OBC/EWS reservation.  Second,  breaking the promise and expelling the general category students AFTER the game is played will be an egregious violation of fundamental rights. Maybe too much even for a “transformative progressive” court.

Part 2 : Core  Principles at play

Now lets move to the Core3 topics, these are more fundamental and not linked the legal matters. It is very important we have a proper grip at this level. I dont see this either in the judiciary, government, or any of the think tanks.

What are the reservation dynamics of PG Medical in particular ?

Indian reservation policies are not applied at the level of the degree rather at the micro level at each site.  As mentioned, PG Medical is the holy grail of professional education in India.  But some specialties in particular are in very high demand – for example M.D. Radiology is the creme,  M.D. Dermat is second and so forth.  The 27% reservation does not mean 27% of PG seats will go to a group but that 27% of M.D. Radiology in College Hospital X will go to OBC doctors. Each discipline in each college-hospital is divvied up.

Is it true that only 250 OBC got admission in AIQ ?

False. You need to understand that in the 77.5% existing Open Competition all groups can compete.  In NEET PG 2018 I have the following numbers :  Of the 10,400 seats 2,500 were taken by OBC.  Of the 1000 odd seats in AIIMS/Delhi Colleges 257 were taken by OBC in the “OBC quota”.  The OBC activists never count the OBC doctors who were admitted in the open competition. When they say “2800 seats denied to OBC” they mean “over and above” the 2500  they got in the open competition.  The keyword “Over and Above” was first used by Marc Galanter to describe the Indian Vertical Quota system.  See Reference [1] for full list of 2018 AIQ PG Medical seats allotment.

What do you think of the reservation jurisprudence ?

On all #core items, Indian “transformative constitution” jurisprudence comes up  a cropper. Very poorly developed tests, incorrect framing of questions, freely adopting spurious arguments,  temporizing, inconsistency, sectarianism, grandstanding are in display. For example :  Why did the Supreme Court not mention the Saloni 2015 writ petition  when dismissing the May 29 case?  If reservation was not a fundamental right , why admit the Saloni 2015 petition in SC?    Most importantly, this is a wide impact issue affecting how Doctors are made in all of India. How can  you keep such a crucial case pending from 2015?  It is very important that a major injection of #core is required in these institutions.  Our public intellectuals come up woefully short too. Otherwise these anomalies build up and when they crumble at some later date it will a very painful experience for all of us and our kids.

What is the underlying issue with Tamilnadu and OBC?

Tamilnadu is the epicentre of all this action. Why?  This is a very important issue that others may not get.  In TN,  almost everyone 93% to 96% are in reserved category.  Roughly 74% are in OBC category (NEET TN 2017-18).  This is not the case with any other state. The bald truth is  –  Tamilnadu reservation categories are designed to exclude the Tamil Brahmins. Nothing else explains the ratio of applicants to MBBS. The other forward castes are likely using a synonym.

Back to the PG issue. I have data from 2018 Tamilnadu state quota of 50%. This is the part where each state applies its own reservation policies on its doctors.

  • Of the 1272 PG Medical seats – FC 53, BC-Muslim 63, MBC 318, BC 604, SC 199, SC-Arunthathiyar 33.  [Reference 2]
  • Only 53 MBBS doctors are from unreserved castes out of 1272 !! Even though the total number of unreserved seats are 394.

This shows that the BC group in Tamilnadu is fully competent and capable and most likely includes forward castes in the mix. The top 30 ranks are OBCs.

Futhermore the Tamilnadu OBC group is divided into the MBC  which is a more accurate social justice group.  When you collapse to an All India Quota, the MBC group do not get the spots. This only works as a ‘lets get a foot in the door first’ tactic.

The central problem with extending OBC quota to the AIQ list is : it will impact states with OBC doctors who might represent really backward classes, measured using a capabilities test.  You should be able to foresee the pressure and pull that will be created if you release such a large OBC doctor contingent from one state.

Are doctors educationally backward ?  The limits of reservation entitlement

The Tamilnadu MBBS doctors go through the same courses, live in the same hostel, have the same facilities, then earn well.  SC can be said to have suffered from systematic issues, but certainly not the OBCs.   I cant imagine how these high specialty courses like M.D Radiology , Anesthesia,  will be out of reach of OBC MBBS doctors  if they compete with all.  Also the creamy layer issue is a joke. The MBBS doctors income is not considered and his/her parents income too from salaries/agri.  Very few doctors will fail to qualify for NCL (Non Creamy Layer) certificate. I dislike the creamy layer concept itself. A poor quality judicial invention , a sweetener of the Indira Sawhney (Mandal) era.

Part 3 : The political part

Who is claiming credit ?

None of the parties are coming out of this looking good.  The DMK never bothered about this for 14 years !  But once they seized of the matter they moved at a rapid pace. Credit must be given to P.Wilson Advocate and MP.

The BJP govt has filed an affidavit agreeing to this reservation  from 2015 but is not stepping up to take credit.  They seem like a deer caught in headlights.  This lack of confidence is due to not understanding the issue at a core level.  The courts are not looking good because who would temporize such a crucial case for 5 years !!

What about the political economy dynamics ?

I group all reservation / social justice matters as #core3.   The central idea in all of these case is DATA and SCRUTINY.  The court’s central duty is to guard and insist on data otherwise factional politics will drive the country into a low grade democracy. Only a tiny swing group, I call Free Agent voters will really  vote on public or national interest matters.  In Tamilnadu case, both 71 Sattanathan commission and 82 Justice Ambasankar commission clearly warned that a handful of castes are lopping up the benefits.  This will hold true today as well, these winning groups will stick to the political formation that perpetuate these benefits and prevent a study. That is the rational behavior, you cant grudge anyone for that.

So what is your recommendation ?

In all #core3 issue data must be a prerequisite.  This must be non-negotiable because ignoring this will exponentially increase the costs of this data becoming public in future.  This will lead to violence because it is one thing if chips fall unevenly in open competition but if social engineering results in uneven benefits, people will react.

This is a golden rule that must be followed at a minimum.  Whenever you extend  reservations  into a new frontier, you must insist on a data checkpoint. As I mentioned the OBC Doctors already crossover 25% into the open category. So further reservation for PG does not pass the sanity checks.  The irony is something as simple as college admissions to make doctors need a battalion of lawyers, dozens of court cases, supreme court benches.  Something must be wrong. No other country has this feature.

The unreserved castes are somewhat protected by the new 10% EWS quota which is a counter weight.  Reservation on economic group is like adopting a HORRIBLE idea to  offset a  BAD  idea.

This is a clear sign we are in a race to the bottom.

References :

  1. NEET PG 2018 Medical All India Quota counseling round 1 results.   Pull this into Excel and you can see that OBC won 2500  odd seats.  The activists do not count this. 2018 PDF All India Quota Allotment including Central Institutons aiq
  2. NEET PG 2018 Tamilnadu 50% allotment.  Again pull into Excel and count the number of each category.  Out of 1272 seats only about 55 are taken by Unreserved candidates. pg-medical-phase-one Tamilnadu PG Medical 2018 allotment
  3. Common Counter Affidavit filed by Union Health Minister agreeing to provide OBC quota for PG Medical , perhaps from next year onwards Credit to Bar and Bench for the PDF, I had to save a copy on my blog only because links tend to vanish over time)  Common_Counter_affidavit_of_R_4_in__W_P_No__8326_of_2020__8324_of_2020___batch_















4 Responses

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  1. td said, on June 23, 2020 at 5:07 am

    Brilliant article , @realitycheck. Btw, since the issue concerns OBC reservations in state-govt relinquished seats under AIQ , can the states take back these seats and put them back under state quota ? Why not decrease the number of PG seats under AIQ ?

  2. Badri said, on June 28, 2020 at 2:48 am

    Is it possible that the Indian Armed Forces are losing their competence? Are the intelligence folks “doomscrolling” through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok like the rest of educated Indians?

    Sadly, the array of Indian intelligence agencies seem to have been caught napping. As General Sharma points out with a tone of disbelief, two divisions of the People’s Liberation Army just turned up in Aksai Chin in May.

    “We used to say it will take them two months to cross to it,” General Sharma observes, “But two whole divisions just appeared there.”

    It seems that the range of intelligence paraphernalia and agencies did not have advance warning nor even spotted them when they were physically moving in.

  3. td said, on July 27, 2020 at 5:28 am

    “The MBBS doctors income is not considered and his/her parents income too from salaries/agri” — Actually income from parents’ salary is indeed concerned but only in cases where the jobs have not been established equivalence with govt jobs. In such cases, if either the income from salary or income from other sources is greater than 8 lakhs then the person falls in creamy layer , however, if both of them are less than 8 lakhs then the person doesn’t fall in creamy layer.
    There was a case where students whose parents were working in PSUs weren’t found eligible for OBC quota because salaries of their parents were included in the wealth test too.
    The reason was that the establishment of equivalence had not been done for govt jobs and the corresponding PSU jobs.

  4. dagalti said, on July 30, 2020 at 3:53 am

    So you are working on a draft for a NEP explainer blogpost right?
    If not, better start.

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