THE PUNJAB government’s decision to hike the MBBS course fee in its medical colleges by nearly 80 per cent has met with sharp criticism from the medical fraternity, which said the move is “aimed at benefitting private players” and making medical education “unaffordable” for aspirants from lower middle and middle classes.
The state Council of Ministers on Wednesday gave its nod for fee hike in cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The fee in government medical colleges in the state has been hiked from Rs 4.4 lakh to Rs 7.8 lakh, an increase of 77.2 per cent, for the full course. The fee for government quota MBBS seats in private colleges has been increased from Rs 13.4 lakh to Rs 18.6 lakh, a nearly 39 per cent increase and for management quota in such colleges, the fee has been hiked from Rs 40.3 lakh to Rs 47 lakh, an increase of nearly 17 per cent.
Three government medical colleges in the state — in Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot — have 225, 250 and 125 MBBS seats respectively. From this session, the Government Medical College at Mohali will also offer 100 MBBS seats, taking the total MBBS seats in four government colleges in the state to 700.
Six private medical colleges in the state have a total of 775 seats. In the private colleges, 50 per cent of the seats are reserved for government quota, 35 per cent for management quota and 15 per cent for NRIs. In addition, there are 50 MBBS seats at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bathinda, run by the Centre.
The fee hike will not be retrospective and will be applicable only for admissions into the MBBS course from this session. Hence, it will not have any impact on students enrolled in the course already.
Well thought-out decision: Minister
Medical Education and Research Minister O P Soni said the decision to hike the fee was “well thought-out” as per the recommendations by a committee of experts. He added that the increased fee was for the “full course” and the hike was affected “after a long time”. Dismissing allegations that the fee hike was aimed at benefiting private players, Soni said Adesh Medical College, which was charging a much higher fee, was also on a level playing field now with Punjab notifying The Punjab Private Health Sciences Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission, Fixation of Fee, and Making of Reservation), Amendment Act, earlier.
According to a spokesperson of the chief minister’s office, the fee for the MBBS course in the state for government medical colleges was last notified in 2015 and for private medical colleges in 2014. “With the massive surge in the price index in the years thereafter, these colleges are facing fiscal problems and are unable to meet the norms of the Medical Council of India, thus necessitating a fee hike. These colleges had, in fact, been seeking fee hike for a long time as they were facing hardships to provide good infrastructure and impart quality education to the students at the current fee rates,” said the spokesperson.
However, there was widespread criticism of the government decision.
“We condemn the fee hike. It is getting out of reach for the common man. For lower middle class or middle class, it is now very difficult to study. On one side we need doctors and we have to improve health services, on the other side there is a decision to increase fee. At a time of pandemic when health sector should be a priority, it is a bad decision. At least in government colleges, the medical education should be affordable. Fees in Punjab are already on higher side as compared to other states,” said Punjab PCMS Association president Dr Gagandeep Singh.
“This is not justified. The hike is aimed at benefiting private players. In 1970s, there was a fee of Rs 400 for the MBBS course. Now it is Rs 7.8 lakh. This much increase has not happened in salaries. In Arts stream the tuition fee is Rs 12 since 1964. Today, a lecturer gets paid on par with a doctor. Punjab is already short of specialist doctors. The fee hike would make things worse,” said Panjab University Faculty of Medicine dean and former registrar of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences Dr Pyare Lal Garg.
Garg added, “There are Supreme Court judgments which say that fee can be hiked once in three years and the hike cannot be more than 15 per cent. During the previous government also [when SAD-BJP combine was in power] the fee was increased to benefit private players. At that time, the fee of management quota seats in private medical colleges was first increased from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh and after five months, it was increased from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh per seat.”
Resident Doctors Association of Punjab (RDAP), Government Medical College Amritsar, president Dr Jaspinder Partap Singh said, “The government can keep the fee in government colleges affordable by managing these institutions better. However, it is more interested in allowing private colleges to hike the fee.”
“Some states have 15 medical colleges and Punjab is not able to run three government medical colleges without shifting burden on medical students. The recent decision of fee hike will break the backs of students from middle and lower middle class. It seems government wants only the rich to study medical. They want to make it unaffordable for poor students,” said Jaspinder.
He added, “The government’s move is only to allow private colleges to raise the fee. The fee structure of private colleges is already out of middle class’ reach. They want to make it impossible for poor students to study in private colleges. If PGI can be run with decent fee structure, why can’t the Punjab government do it ? It is clear mismanagement and dishonesty to help private colleges from back door.”
Jaspinder further said, “It is a conspiracy against the people. Government must take this hike back. It must not turn medical education into a business for the public sector too. It is already a business for private sector. We will protest against it. The doctors are at the forefront in fight against coronavirus. It is shameful that government has made this decision when students in medical colleges are not in position to oppose it due to the ongoing pandemic. ”
MBBS seats in private medical colleges
Christian Medical College, Ludhiana: 75
Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana: 100
Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences, Jalandhar: 150
Adesh Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Bathinda: 150
Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Amritsar: 150
Gian Sagar Medical College, Banur: 150
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