The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iti opens can of questions
- Medical fraternity unites over status of other poor students

Calcutta, July 10: The medical colleges in the city are likely to witness a day’s strike later this month when a body of teachers and students pose this question to the government: what will happen to the Iti Baidyas who merit a chance to study but cannot because their parents are too poor to pay the hiked accommodation and admission fees'

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra announced in the Assembly yesterday that the government would waive the tuition fees for 10 per cent of medical students, who were “meritorious but poor”.

The same number of students would be given 50 per cent waiver on their tuition fees, Mishra added.

But the government’s gesture, following a report in The Telegraph about the vegetable-seller’s daughter who earned a high enough rank in this year’s Joint Entrance Examination to seek admission to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, the state’s most sought after institution for under-graduate medical education, has raised questions.

Iti had ranked 9th in the 2001 Madhyamik examinations. She was the best among girls in the examination that year.

How does the government decide who is “poor” and who is not, the All-Bengal Medical Students’ Action Forum has asked. Two, what purpose does waiving only the tuition fees — about a third of the cost of studying medicine in a state-run medical college — serve'

And, three, will this round of separating the poor from the rich give rise to myriad allegations as the drawing up of the below-poverty-line list had'

The action forum, a conglomerate of students’ bodies, has drawn up a series of agitational programmes where, for the first time, teachers, too, have shown willingness to participate.

The first phase comes off on Tuesday when students and teachers congregate for a convention at the medical college where Iti is most likely to study. The convention will raise the questions provoked by the government’s gesture towards her.

The JEE counselling sessions for admission to the medical colleges is likely to start in the third or fourth week of this month, after the publication of the Higher Secondary results.

Students’ action forum spokesperson Mridul Sarkar said today the organisation would wait till then for a clear response to their questions. “A strike has been planned for July 29 but we will prepone it if the situation so demands,” he added.

Health department officials said the government would come out with details of the new rules before the counselling starts. “The government will determine the cut-off monthly income that would qualify students for the waiver,” one of the officials said.

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