A group of ministers in India has forwarded a report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the government's controversial affirmative action plan for the nation's colleges.
Officials in New Dehli Saturday said the plan to increase quotas for members of the lower castes, socially and economically underprivileged members of society would be phased in slowly. They also said the ministers have agreed to increase the number of available slots at state-funded colleges to ensure openings for students competing on merit will remain the same.
The plan has sparked protests throughout the country, with thousands of doctors, medical students and other professionals rallying against the new quota system. Many have walked off the job, forcing thousands of hospital patients to go without treatment or to seek care at costly, private facilities.
India's government wants to increase quotas for disadvantaged members of society from 22-and-a-half percent to 49-and-a-half percent. New Dehli says the move is designed to reverse social discrimination against lower castes and boost their representation in top professions.
Critics, however, argue the change will reduce the number of slots for students competing on merit and will hurt educational and professional standards.