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Saturday, July 21, 2018

The faces to MP’s exam scandal

Seats narrowly missed, they look back in anger.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Updated: July 14, 2014 12:40:46 am
Poonam Sharma falls ill during a hunger strike in Indore in 2013. On the waiting list in the medical entrance, she cleared the all-India test later but by then had crossed the age limit.File Poonam Sharma falls ill during a hunger strike in Indore in 2013. On the waiting list in the medical entrance, she cleared the all-India test later but by then had crossed the age limit. File

Poonam Sharma of Shivpuri lost out in the Pre-Medical Tests from 2011 to 2013, saying she was only a few marks short on the first two occasions. In 2013, the last time the examination was conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board after the unearthing of the state’s examination scam, she was on the waiting list. And in 2014, she succeeded in the all-India test, only to find that she had crossed the age limit.

A general-category student, Poonam was among a group who went on a hunger strike in Indore in late 2013 to force authorities to admit the waitlisted students against seats whose results had been cancelled. The courts held that no student could be admitted after the last day of admission was over on September 30.

Left with no choice but to pursue BAMS, Poonam says not many supported the wronged students; the support extended by the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party did not help because it was tainted by political affiliation. After she cleared the all-India test, the 1989-born Poonam found the doors closed on her this year when 1990 was introduced as the cutoff year. There was no age limit earlier for admission through the state quota. And she could not clear the BAMS final-year examination because she had focused on her MBBS dream. “I don’t know what’s in store for me,” she says.

Several students in MP have lost out on medical seats over the last many years because the admission process was manipulated by organised syndicates, middlemen, politicians, officials of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, and bureaucrats.

Zakir Hussain, 22, has opted for a dental course. The retired army havildar’s son came close to making the grade in 2013 but eventually lost out. “Whom do I blame? The parents who gave money on behalf of their wards, the students who agreed to use unfair means, the government that failed to do anything?” says the first-year student of Government Dental College in Indore, the town where the scam was unearthed a year ago.

Though he can still attempt the exam, he has no wish to. “Not any more,” he says of his unfulfilled dream that drained the family’s resources, saw him skip a year, attend coaching in Kota and make repeated attempts.

Kadam Raj Kaul, 22, who belongs to a scheduled tribe, too kept narrowly missing the bus until the scam came to light. “Had it not been for the scam, I would have been a doctor,” he says. A resident of Rewa, he too is pursuing BDS in Indore.

Among the exceptions is Krishna Mourya, a resident of Morena, who had protested along with Poonam in Indore in 2013-end. Having cleared the all-India test this year, the 21-year-old was allotted a seat in a government medical college in Bhopal on July 4. The reserved-category student recalls how he and others pooled Rs 10,000 each to fight the court case, which they eventually lost. Like other waitlisted students, he too had taken admission to BDS. “Many of my BDS friends would have been doctors too but for the scam,” he says.

Says Bhopal resident Anand Prakash, whose daughter Sargam too suffered because of the racket, “The fraud did not come to light before because whoever in position of authority got wind of it either tried to suppress it or joined the racketeers.”

Sargam was placed 581st 2013 PMT examination while the last student who got admission was placed 544th. “Had the waitlisted students been admitted against the cancelled seats, my daughter would have easily got admission to a government medical college,’’ says Anand, pointing out that 116 seats in six government colleges were eventually cancelled.

His daughter chose not to join BDS and instead got admission to MBBS in an Indore-based private college. The annual fees are Rs 40,000 at a government college, compared to Rs 3.75 lakh at a private college.

One potential fallout of the scam is a shortage of government doctors in the hinterlands. Though figures are still being worked out, admissions of more than 250 medical students have been cancelled (out of more than 1,300 results that have been cancelled so far) in various colleges.

Indore-based health activist Anand Rai says the scam is not restricted to PMT and most toppers in the MD and MS entrance examinations would be exposed if the results are probed. Questions raised in the assembly have been based on Rai’s inputs. He alleges that the authorities are not extending the scope of pre-PG tests before 2012 because the revelations would expose many prominent persons both in the BJP and in the government.

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