India’s Never-Ending Reservation Debate: Should There Be a Quota in MBBS for Children of Covid-19 Warriors?


India’s Never-Ending Reservation Debate: Should There Be a Quota in MBBS for Children of Covid-19 Warriors?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The frontline healthcare workers have endured the most severe hardships during the coronavirus pandemic. In a move directed toward honouring their services, the Centre on Thursday announced its decision to reserve five MBBS seats for children of COVID-19 warriors who have lost their lives due to the virus.A new category called “wards of Covid warriors” will be introduced for the academic year 2020-2021.

According to Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, the reservation will be provided in MBBS and Bachelor of Dental Courses under the central quota. “This will honour the solemn sacrifice of all Covid warriors who served with selfless dedication,” he stated. 

In a statement, the ministry said, “The selection of candidates will be made by the Medical Council Committee (MCC) through online application on the basis of rank obtained in the NEET-2020 conducted by National Testing Agency.”

The government has defined Covid healthcare workers as:

  1. Community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of COVID-19 patients and who may be at risk of being impacted by this.
  2. Private hospital staff and retired, volunteer, local urban bodies, contracted, daily-wage, ad-hoc, outsourced staff requisitioned by states, central hospitals, autonomous hospitals of central, states, UTs, AIIMS and Institutes of National Importance (INIs), hospitals of central ministries drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities are all included in this list.

The decision has drawn criticism on social media. While almost everyone appreciated the efforts of healthcare workers during the pandemic, the wisdom of the reservation was put into question. Will these students really make good doctors?

PhD student Ketaki Bhagwat raised questions over India’s obsession with reservations in the education system. “Shouldn’t admission to any degree be based on the student’s academic performance (by designing better entrance exams which give less preference to learning by rote) than on whether their parents were COVID warriors or not?” she asked.

Some questioned the wisdom in narrowly defining a Covid-19 warrior, stating that even bankers, soldiers, and other essential staff were out on the frontlines and suffered during the pandemic.

And of course, there is the issue of age-old Indian corruption.

As one user summed it, we simply need better ideas.