The government's assurances seems not to have affected the resolve of the students against reservations who continue their stir and this took a worse turn when two frustrated students tried to self immolate themselves - one in the capital and another in Orissa.
Rishi Ranjan, 23, whom the police described as a vendor, tried immolating himself at the capital's Ram Lila ground where medicos, who had gathered in strength, staged a rally protesting against the government's move to reserve 27 percent seats in central universities and educational institutions for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Advertisement'All of a sudden we saw this youth running towards the grounds in the midst of the sloganeering. He had already doused himself in kerosene and lit a match,' Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Neeraj Thakur told IANS.
Within minutes, a posse of policemen grabbed hold of Ranjan, ripped off his clothes and rushed him in a police vehicle to the adjacent Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital.
Doctors described his condition as 'stable' even as he was being treated for his burn injuries.
'Rishi is not a member of the medical community. We don't know why he doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire,' said Kumar Harsh, a member of the Youth for Equality Forum that is spearheading the protest.
In Orissa's Cuttack city, Surendra Mohanty, a final year student of the Sri Ram Chandra Bhanja (SCB) Medical College Hospital, also attempted self-immolation.
According to eyewitnesses, Mohanty brought some kerosene in a canister and poured it on himself outside the medical college.
Students who were preparing to take out a candlelight procession in the city rushed to the spot and rescued him in the nick of time. 'We managed to save him before the flames could engulf him. He was rushed to the hospital,' said a doctor.
Police, however, said the incident was not related to the anti-reservation protests. 'He has nothing to do with the protest,'said Debesh Chandra Biswal, inspector of Cuttack's Mangala bag police station.
'The student's condition is stable and nothing serious has happened to him. He is under medical examination,' said Biswal.
While it was not clear if the two immolation bids were related with the ongoing anti-quota protests, they brought back the memory of a self-immolation big made by Rajeev Goswami, a student, in New Delhi to protest the Mandal Commission recommendations to enlarge the scope of caste-based reservations in 1989.
Even as the medicos' strike in the capital to oppose the fresh quota regime entered its 16th day, the protesting doctors said they would press on with their agitation despite their meetings with cabinet minister Oscar Fernandes and Health Secretary P.K. Hota.
'After two rounds of talks with the minister and the secretary, the government is yet to give us a written assurance. Till the time we receive something concrete we will keep with our strike,'said a student leader.
While announcing its intention to implement the fresh quota proposal from the next year, the government has said it will increase the number of seats in higher educational institutions to ensure interests of all sections of society.
The health ministry Saturday directed nine medical institutions in the country to increase the number of their seats and furnish a first draft of their proposal by June 15.
First on the ministry's list is the capital's All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where it has asked the administration to increase the number of postgraduate seats from the existing 50 to 90.
Besides the AIIMS, Lady Harding Medical College, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdurjung Hospital (all in New Delhi), North Eastern Indira Gandhi Institute of Research in Medical Sciences in Shillong, NIMHANS (Bangalore), Central Institute of Psychiatry (Ranchi) and Post-Graduate Institute of Chandigarh have also been asked by the ministry to increase seats.
'All of the institutes have been asked to carry out an appraisal and accordingly take steps to increase seats,' said a ministry spokesperson.
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