From a distance they look like college students loitering in a garden after bunking classes. But these former MBBS students are desperate to return to the classrooms in medical colleges whose doors have been closed on them, a fallout of the Madhya Pradesh examination scam.
Expelled from six government medical colleges in May this year on the charge of having used unfair means in Pre-Medical Tests between 2008 and 2011, their alleged transgression predates the now unfolding scam being investigated by a Special Task Force.
After cancelling the results of students suspected to have cheated in the 2012 and 2013 PMTs, the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) checked the previous four examinations and found several sets of students whose right and wrong answers, and consequently the scores, were identical. The results of 315 candidates from these four tests were cancelled, and successful students who had taken admission were thrown out by their respective colleges.
Claiming they are innocent, some 30 of these MBBS students have been waging a battle. Though the high court has allowed them to appear for the examination, they are uncertain what the future holds for them even if they clear the examination when they are no longer allowed to enter the colleges.
They have converged on Bhopal because the assembly is in session and are hoping someone will at least hear them out. They meet in public gardens to chalk out the next course of action. They say their lives have been ruined by punitive action they call unfair because it was based merely on suspicion.
“It could be a coincidence,” claims Neha Varma, a final-year student, adding that most students did well in their MBBS courses, scoring marks that she says would not have been possible for someone who had cheated in the entrance test.
“We are not accused but victims. Some students may have found themselves at the receiving end of what was essentially a system failure and they should be presented as witnesses, not as criminals,’’ reads a memorandum they have prepared to hand over to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Bhavesh Nayak, who hails from Pitol village in tribal-dominated Jhabua district, said most of the expelled students belong to communities that are entitled to reservation and come from rural areas. He said he had taken a loan from a cooperative bank and his family is in no position to repay it.
Bhopal-based relatives of most of the students are keeping a distance, especially after the recent crackdown by the police on the accused and family members. “I cleared PMT after several attempts and am about to turn 25. I can neither complete MBBS nor study anything else,’’ a student said. “We don’t have money for our education, forget paying racketeers.”
The students allege that MPPEB threw them out to save officials involved in the examination process. “What about invigilators in whose presence the alleged cheating took place? Why was none of them punished?” says Neha, demanding another probe to study individual cases considering their educational background.