The tribals of Car Nicobar took to the streets in a peaceful march recently, protesting against the MCI’s expulsion of 8 tribal students from the Andaman and Nicobar Island Institute of Medical Sciences (ANIIMS) on grounds of ineligibility. The students had already attended six months of class at the institute. The expulsion has come on the basis of the students not having cleared the 40% qualifying mark fixed by the apex body for admission into a medical course across India for schedule tribes.
The students had however, qualified for the seats based on the gazette notification issued by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration which lowered the qualification percentage to 35 of their own choice, as against that of the government of India notification of a 40% qualifying credential for schedule tribe entrants.
This deviation on the part of the Andaman and Nicobar Administration was discovered by the MCI during a routine inspection which led to the expulsion orders of the eight students admitted on the basis of it.
The MCI decision has not gone down well with the Tribal Councils of Car Nicobar and Nancowrie islands, who soon after the expulsion directed 737 tribal school students to boycott public institutes in the islands.
The tribal council has made it clear that the boycott would continue till the expelled students are reinstated with honour and dignity.
In a written petition to the Lieutenant General, Andaman & Nicobar Administration, the tribal leaders point to the injustice and state that “If the future of our children cannot be guaranteed by the Administration, then their efforts to progress in life through education is futile. It will be in the best interest of the students to stay home and help their parents in agricultural works, rather wasting time and their parent’s hard earned money on pens and books.”
Calling the act unethical and unlawful, the tribals are also pointing to the fact that no publicity or public outcry is being heard from mainland India as the matter pertains to tribals.
The Tribal leaders have taken this incident to point at the fact that being adivasis does not automatically qualify them to avail the quota or guarantee a government job. Raising issues of disparity in rural and urban areas as being large, tribals have raised the issue of they not being able to make the cut, crack the qualifying mark of entrance exam or interviews- despite the reservation criterion. Pointers have been raised about the fact that eligibility is a criterion to benefit from reservation, which automatically leaves out a sizeable population who merely have access to a sub standard education.
Citing the case of a Meera Ekka, a tribal who applied for a senior residency post at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and who was allegedly shunned along with two others, on the plea of ‘unsuitability ‘, the tribal leadership has made it a case to point to the package of reservation being a chance to be mainstreamed in an environment of hostility and bias.