The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors join student protest

Calcutta, Nov. 21: Would-be medics were today joined by senior pros — practising doctors — in their protest against the Bengal government’s decision to raise tuition fees for medical education.

The Calcutta chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) — now under the control of opponents of the Left Front — has decided to take to the streets next month, holding hands with students of the medical colleges where they themselves had once studied, paying Rs 12 as tuition fee every month.

Unchanged since Independence, the fee is proposed to be raised from the next academic session to Rs 1,000 a month, a move students of medical colleges have come together in a forum to oppose.

IMA city branch secretary R.D. Dubey announced today a centralised convention in coordination with medical students to protest against the proposal. A joint action committee, comprising the IMA (Calcutta chapter) and the All-Bengal Medical Students’ Action Forum, has decided to follow up the December convention with a series of strikes and demonstrations from January.

The director of medical education, Chittaranjan Maiti, however, said the government would brook no protest. “Students and the IMA can do whatever they want but the huge subsidies cannot go on forever,” he said.

It now costs the taxpayer Rs 1.5 lakh over five years to turn out a doctor while a medical student pays Rs 1,500 over the same period for his or her education.

“The students will become doctors one day and charge huge fees,” Maiti added, wondering why they were not bothered about the “commercialisation of their profession”.

This was a riposte to Dubey’s comment: “How can the government commercialise education'”

Doctors are anything but united, though. A section of the Bengal chapter of the IMA is not opposing the hike. “The fees had to be increased some time or the other,” former IMA Bengal chapter secretary Kajal Krishna Banik said.

“Calcutta is the only city where medical education comes so cheap,” he added, expressing surprise that a “ridiculous” tuition fee of Rs 12 every month continues. Banik, however, felt the government should have discussed the issue with the medical fraternity before coming to a conclusion.

The IMA has proposed that fees be increased from Rs 12 to 25. “The state government should have increased the fees gradually,” Dubey said.

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