The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to accept the recommendation of a panel to retain the existing criteria of Rs 8-lakh ceiling for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservations for medical courses in India.
In an affidavit filed before the court on 31 December in the matter related to admissions for medical students under NEET-PG, the Centre said the three-member expert panel has recommended that only those families whose current gross annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh should avail benefit of EWS reservation, reported news agency PTI.
The expert committee has said that changing the EWS criteria midway through the admission process will lead to complications, and advised that the revised criteria be introduced from next year.
According to Bar and Bench, the committee’s report said, "The central government has decided to accept the recommendations of the committee, including the recommendation of applying the new criteria prospectively."
The affidavit was filed in response to the SC's question on what basis the Rs 8-lakh limit was set for quota in NEET, as the ceiling still represented the more economically-stable OBC families.
What Are the Recommendations of the Panel?
The report on the new criteria recommended by the panel, as quoted by PTI, states:
"The current gross annual family income limit for EWS of Rs 8 lakh or less may be retained. In other words only those families whose annual income is up to Rs 8 lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation... EWS may, however exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above. The residential asset criteria may altogether be removed."
The expert committee, comprising Former Finance Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, ICSSR Member Secretary VK Malhotra, and Principal Economic Adviser to Centre Sanjeev Sanyal, has recommended:
"It is completely unadvisable and impractical to apply the new criteria (which are being recommended in this report) and change the goal post in the midst of the ongoing processes resulting in inevitable delay and avoidable complications. When the existing system is ongoing since 2019, no serious prejudice would be caused if it continues for this year as well."
The Centre had told the SC that it would put a hold on counselling for NEET-PG 2021 admissions until the quota issue was resolved. The decision led to two-week-long protests by doctors across the country.
The Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) had announced on 25 December that resident doctors across the country would have to go ahead with mass resignation if the government didn't speed up the counselling and admission process.
(With inputs from PTI and Bar and Bench.)
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