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Quota issue: Arjun Singh meets student protestors
April 27, 2006 19:35 IST
Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, on Thursday, received five representatives of medical students protesting his reservation proposal, but declined to discuss the issue until after elections.
"Unfortunately, because of the directions of the Election Commission I am not in a position to interact with them and I have to maintain silence till the elections are over," Singh said in a statement.
Announcements or public statements expected to affect voter behaviour are forbidden during elections by the Election Commission through a code of conduct.
Earlier this month, Singh was asked to explain a proposal he was reported to have made to reserve 27 per cent seats in higher education institutions for members of communities dubbed Other Backward Classes. Singh categorically denied having announced any such proposal.
The Cabinet Secretary sent back a draft Bill on the subject, suggesting it be pursued after the elections.
Word of reservation, however, triggered protests in the capital on Wednesday by students of five medical colleges over the effect such a policy may have on admission seekers in the coming years.
Reports said students of All India Institute of Medical Sciences and other medical colleges assembled on Akbar Road, but were stopped by police from proceeding to Singh's residence as they did not have prior permission.
The protesters raised anti-reservation slogans, denouncing the minister's 'backward' move and demanding that it be scrapped.
Singh in his statement on Friday voiced pain that medical students trying to meet him received injuries. "I was pained by the news that a number of students of the medical colleges wanted to meet me and were not allowed to come and see me and some of them received injuries in the process," Singh said. "My house is ever open to anybody who desires to come and meet me. Of course there has to be some limitations on numbers."
"In the instant case the students wanted to interact about the reservation issue with me," the minister said. "Unfortunately, because of the directions of the Election Commission I am not in a position to interact with them and I have to maintain silence till the elections are over."
"Still if anybody wants to meet me I have no hesitation to meet them as may be requested," he said.
An HRD spokesman said Singh declined to comment on remarks by Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal on reservation of seats in the higher educational institutions. "No policy should be taken which will dilute the levels of excellence in our research and development and educational institutions. When the West is looking at us for excellence, we should do nothing that will work as a dampener," Sibal reportedly claimed.