The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike call against medical fee hike

To protest the steep hike in medical fees, that has put a question mark on the future of many meritorious students like Iti Baidya, the All Bengal Medical Students Action Forum has called a day’s token strike in all medical colleges in the city and districts next Friday. The strike has been supported by the Indian Medical Association and the Medical Service Centre.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students, past and present, and teachers of medical colleges joined hands at a convention at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital to declare a “jihad” against the government for raising the tuition fees for the first time since Independence, and also for introducing reservation of medical seats.

“Financial strength will be the decisive factor for securing seats in medical colleges and meritorious students from not only poor, but even middle-class families, will fail to pursue a career in medicine,” said P.K. Sen, former head of the department of anatomy, R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital.

Former professors and the heads of departments of various branches of medical colleges of the city have also written an open letter to the chief minister to reconsider the decision. “We believe the government should make education, including hostel fees, free and mandatory for all poor students,” said a few of those present at Tuesday’s convention.

The government has ruled out any concession in hostel fee, saying that only tuition fees could be waived, depending on the financial status of the student’s family. It has decided to raise tuition fees from Rs 225 to Rs 850 a month and charge Rs 500 a month as hostel fee from medical students. This apart,15 per cent seats will be reserved for students against a capitation fee of Rs 10 lakh.

Members of the action forum said students will take to the streets, demanding immediate withdrawal of the hike and very shortly, initiate campaigns in the districts to build up a movement. “We cannot let the government kill talent with such steep fees. Iti Baidya is an example of a brilliant student, who cannot pursue her career due to financial constraints. There are many students like her who have given up all hope of becoming doctors because of the government’s health policies,” said Dr Mridul Sarkar, spokesperson for the forum.

Bowing to pressure, the government had scaled down its fee hike from Rs 1,000 to Rs 850 a month.

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