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Govt rush to sugarcoat medical fee hike

Calcutta, Aug. 17: The government appears to be working over-time to make the hike in tuition fees of medical colleges as palatable as possible.

Stung by the criticism of its move to “rationalise” the fee-structure from teachers’ and students’ organisations, the health department has effected two major changes in the procedure of admission followed for the past 30 years.

The changes follow two rollbacks in the revised fee-structure for medical students.

One of the changes introduces the get-admitted-now-pay-later concept in Bengal. Though students have to get admitted to one of the seven medical colleges in the state either on August 22 or 23, they can pay the initial round of fees in September, after the classes start.

“We have taken the decision to make it as easy as possible for students from poor or not-so-rich families to pay the new fees,” a senior health department official said. He added that a significant number of aspiring doctors could find it “extremely difficult” to pay the new fees.

The government had initially announced that tuition fees in medical colleges would be hiked to Rs 1,000 every month. But following protests, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra told the Assembly on July 9 that the monthly tuition fees would be brought down to Rs 850.

But those calling the hike “steep” were still not satisfied. The Indian Medical Association, the Medical Service Centre, the All-Bengal Medical Students’ Action Forum and the CPM’s students’ wing, SFI, were among those opposing the hike.

The government then lowered the tuition fees to Rs 750. But as it turns out now, it has been forced to do something it has never done before to calm frayed nerves. “Students can get admitted on August 22 and 23 and they can pay their first instalment of fees by September 6,” said director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti.

“We have been forced by circumstances to take this never-before step,” said another senior health official.

The second change in the offing is that students will have to pay only the first two months’ tuition fees as “advance” before starting class. Earlier, they had to pay six months’ fees as advance when they queued up for college.

“Six months’ fees will come to Rs 4,500 and it may not be possible for many students to pay that amount after paying the registration fee, the admission fee and the library and caution money,” a health department official said. The latter group of three one-time fees comes to Rs 3,000.

“Paying Rs 7,500 will be a burden many would not be able to bear,” he explained. Students will now pay Rs 1,500 (as two months’ tuition fees) and the Rs 3,000 for registration and other fees.

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