Rumours circulating in social media have raised the anxiety levels of the students of reserved categories preparing for medical entrance examinations. Broadly, there are two rumours; first, that the Uttar Pradesh government has abolished reservations in private medical colleges and second, that a notification has been issued that says the candidates of reserved categories won’t be considered for admission to medical colleges under the general category even if their scores are better than those of the general-category candidates. FORWARD Press traced the rumours to their source and found them baseless.
The first rumour originated with Dainik Aaj front-paging a Lucknow-datelined story with the headline “Yogi Government’s assault on reservations; SC, ST, OBC quota abolished in private medical colleges”. Immediately afterwards, some people began sharing this news on social media without verifying it. They might have been looking to put the Yogi government in the dock but they forgot that such rumours could have a negative impact. The news soon became a hot topic of discussion on Facebook and Twitter. Then, “national” dailies and TV channels took it up. They found the news pro-savarna and began backing the Yogi (state) and Modi (central) governments on this issue. This continued for almost the whole of April and May.
Soon, social media gave wing to another rumour – that a notification has been issued saying that the candidates of reserved categories who obtain marks higher than the cut-off for the general category in NEET will not be eligible for admissions under the general category. That is, in effect, 50.5 per cent seats in medical colleges have been reserved for the savarnas. Some Hindi newspapers and TV channels jumped at this opportunity and started presenting this rumour as news they obtained from their “sources”.
What the newspapers said
Some newspapers carried the “news” that in the NEET merit list, reserved-category candidates securing marks higher than the cutoff for the general category had not been included in the general category. The newspapers, of their own accord, quoted the Supreme Court judgment in the Deepa E.V. vs The Union of India to substantiate their point.
Just see what a daily published from Bihar and Jharkhand had to say:
“A major change has been introduced in the reservation rules for NEET this year. According to the new rules framed in the light of a Supreme Court judgment, a new category called ‘unreserved’ has been created in the merit list. This category will include general category and creamy layer OBC candidates only. Such candidates have been asked to indicate their category as “UR” during counselling. According to the CBSE NEET Information Bulletin, even the reserved category candidates obtaining high marks will not figure in the general merit list. This will indirectly benefit the general category candidates scoring low marks. This time, counselling will be held separately for the reserved-category and unreserved-category students. The Supreme Court, in an important judgment in April 2017, had said that the reserved category candidates would get jobs only under the quota earmarked for them even if their marks are higher than those of the general-category candidates. After the change in reservation rules, the CBSE will now publish separate merit lists for reserved and unreserved categories and the reserved-category candidates will not be admitted under the general category. Till 2016, the OBC candidates obtaining marks equal to or than higher than that of general category candidates were allowed to seek admission under the general quota. But this won’t be the case from this year onwards. The reserved-category candidates who are ranked higher than some of the general-category candidates will not figure in the general merit list. They will be included in the merit list of their category. This will benefit the candidates of unreserved categories whose performance is relatively poor the way the rules in force till last year used to benefit reserved-category candidates. Till 2016, the scorecard of general and OBC candidates only carried their All-India ranks. Now, the scorecards of OBC candidates, besides their All-India ranking, will also carry information about their category, namely reserved or unreserved.
“‘This change in the system was needed. This decision is welcome. Every category will get benefit within its quota. No one will be the loser’
– Bipin Kumar, Director, Goal Institute.
‘This has been implemented following the SC directive. This time, there will be separate merit lists for reserved and unreserved categories. This will ensure that seats do not remain vacant.’
-Sanyam Bharadwaj, OSD, NEET”
(Prabhat Khabar, Patna, 27 June 2017)
What is interesting is that the news reports to this effect (which were almost copy-paste jobs) were published in many newspapers and web portals. On 12 April 2017, a news website called Sabrang India published the Dainik Aaj report verbatim. Some other websites focused on Dalit issues followed suit. What journalism has come to is evident by the fact that on 14 April, Ambedkar Jayanti, India Today published the same story without making any enquiries. Without naming Sabrang, it carried the news quoting “an official statement given to a website”. This was patently laughable as Sabrang had not quoted any official.
The same day, India Today published a corrigendum regarding its story on reservations in private medical colleges of Uttar Pradesh. The corrigendum, quoting an official of the Medical Education Department of the Uttar Pradesh government, said that no order regarding reservations in medical colleges had been issued.
But the rumours continued to circulate on social media. It seems that social media has gradually grown into something so powerful that it no longer merely follows news; it also generates news. People’s participation in the generation of news would have been welcome but for the questionable means used.
Medical colleges: What are the facts?
In 2006, the Government of Uttar Pradesh under the chief ministership of Mulayam Singh Yadav had enforced reservations in private colleges and technical training institutions in the state. The order was issued via an ordinance which was published in the state gazette on 10 July 2006. In 2011, the Allahabad High Court stayed the government order in response to a petition filed by one Sudha Tiwari challenging reservation of seats in Deendayal Upadhyaya Medical College, Gorakhpur. The then state government did not challenge the high court’s decision and the stay on reservations in private colleges continues even today. Sanjay Kumar Upadhyaya, special secretary in the Department of Medical Education, Uttar Pradesh, told FORWARD Press over the phone that the state government has not taken any new decision on the issue. Clearly, the government is not in a mood to challenge the high court order.
In the case of NEET too, the situation is almost the same. Like every year, this year too, the CBSE issued a notice for NEET which said, “An All-India merit list and All-India Rank of the qualified candidates shall be prepared on the basis of the marks obtained in the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test and candidates shall be admitted to MBBS/BDS courses from the said list only by following the Existing Reservation Policies.” It also said, “All other existing eligibility criteria for admission to Medical/Dental Colleges shall be applicable as per Rules and Policies of the State/UT/Institution/University concerned.” The results of NEET were announced on 23 June and like in the earlier years, separate merit lists were issued for reserved and unreserved categories, and the reserved-category candidates obtaining marks equal to or higher than those of general category candidates were included in the unreserved-category merit list.
When contacted, the public relations officer of NEET told FORWARD Press that the reports published in newspapers were baseless.
Problem in Tamil Nadu
In Tamil Nadu, the controversy over the NEET merit list has been raging for much longer. A petition was filed in the Madras High Court in this regard and the court had stayed publication of the results till 7 June. The Tamil Nadu government had some serious objections. Its argument was that 8,000 candidates from the state had appeared in NEET and 90 per cent of them had cleared their 12th grade examinations from schools affiliated to the state board of secondary education. Therefore, 85 per cent seats in the state quota should be set aside for them and candidates from CBSE schools should be admitted under the 15 per cent central quota.
Another issue was that while Tamil Nadu has 69 per cent reservations, NEET published its merit list allocating only 49.5 per cent to the reserved categories. But CBSE had made it clear in the admission notice itself that the state/union territory/university concerned would take a decision on reservations in accordance with their rules and policies. That made things easier for Tamil Nadu, which had a genuine problem and the CBSE tried to help resolve it. But it is clear that reservation rules were not overlooked in NEET with respect to the other states.
One step ahead
This is not the first time such rumours have been passed off as news. Much has been written about the Dwij character and dubious objectives of Hindi newspapers and the electronic media. But the new, emerging character of social media – which is considered the people’s media – is a deeper cause for concern. Over the last couple of years, the social media has transformed from a platform affording the common people an opportunity to present their viewpoints into an instrument of capitalist media houses, political and religious outfits and vested interests. The desire for virtual popularity is also muddying the waters.
Some time ago, FORWARD Press had published a story in this regard. It was centred on the rumours about the import of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Deepa E.V.
See the story here:Un-yellowing Dainik Hindustan: ‘Reserved’ candidates can get ‘general’ posts
In its judgment in the Deepa E.V. case, the Supreme Court had ruled on 6 April 2017 that if an OBC candidate takes the benefit of age-limit relaxation or any other concession, then he cannot be included in the general category despite scoring marks higher than the cutoff. At the time, too, newspapers had tried to create confusion by reporting that the apex court had reserved 50 per cent seats for the savarnas.
What do such rumours do?
It would not be an exaggeration to say that today, reservations is the most sensitive issue in the country. The Dwijs want to bring an end to this Constitutional provision by hook or by crook. The Dwijs dominate the mainstream media and want the NDA government to don the mantle of an anti-reservations crusader. It seeks to achieve two objectives by circulating such rumours: first, mounting pressure on the government, and second, creating scope for disregarding reservations rules at the lower levels. For instance, Dwij employees put up clippings of such stories on the noticeboards of offices to misguide Bahujan candidates – and more often than not, they are successful.
Some NGOs and Bahujans are also involved in spreading these kinds of rumours. Some want their 15 minutes of fame while others are perennially belligerent and enjoy hurting themselves.
But it is society that suffers as the struggles of the Bahujans move away from the real issues. Today, what Bahujans need is more comprehensive reservations. These kinds of rumours break the morale of the Bahujans, making them vulnerable to blackmailing.
Real assault on reservations being ignored
On the one hand, misleading stories are being bandied about; on the other hand, people are being kept in the dark about the real assaults on reservations by the Modi government. For instance, many irregularities were committed in granting reservations during admissions to IITs. Even high-scoring students were kept in the reserved quota, but that didn’t make news.
Another crucial issue is the creamy layer cap. The National Commission for Backward Classes had recommended back in 2013 that the income limit for creamy layer should be raised from Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 15 lakh. The BJP had promised in its poll manifesto that it would raise the creamy layer cap so that more OBC candidates could benefit from reservations but that has not been done so far.
The motives of the present government vis-à-vis social justice are suspect, more so because of the acts of omission and commission by some people in the government. The vested interests and pro-savarna media are doing everything they can to draw maximum mileage out of the confusion.
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