The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Million-rupee doctor seats draw 500

The race for 15 per cent of the state’s medical seats, which can be “bought”, is hotting up, with 500-plus students ready to fight for the 150-plus seats.

For the government, which has drawn a lot of flak ever since it decided to forget its education-for-the-meritorious policy, the fact that it has been able to attract enough students to appear for an entrance test is a pleasant enough surprise, say officials.

With the test still some days away, they are hopeful that the number of students willing to pay Rs 10 lakh to add an MBBS to their name will rise to a four-digit figure.

The advertisement — inviting applicants for the MBBS-for-money scheme —was published towards the end of July. “If a week can bring in 500 applications, surely 500 more can be expected within a little less than a fortnight,” explained a West Bengal University of Health Sciences official, adding that August 17 was the tentative date for the test.

“The response from students willing to study medical courses by paying exorbitant tuition fees is satisfactory,” university vice-chancellor M.M. Choudhury said. “It is obvious that such students come from affluent families,” he said.

The state now has a little more than 900 seats for students aspiring to become doctors. Till date, all the seats were filled up through the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), with the usual reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

The government has said 15 per cent of the seats are going to be reserved for students who can pay their way through but has added that the number of seats-for-merit will stay pegged at the present figure of 900-plus.

Officials explain that this can be done if the Medical Council of India (MCI) approves the government’s plea for more MBBS seats in the University College of Medicine (UCM) and a private college in Midnapore.

To justify its decision, the government has put forward the “cross-subsidy” logic. “It is not possible for the government to spend millions of rupees to make a doctor,” a health sciences university official said. “We have, therefore, decided not to touch the JEE-routed seats. But at the same time, we have done something to bring in money to the empty coffers,” he added.

The route for those paying a million rupees to become doctors will, however, not be without its share of hurdles. First, the applicants will have to secure at least 50 per cent in the Higher Secondary examination or its equivalent tests conducted by other boards. Then, they will have to appear for a test that all capitation fee-paying applicants will be required to take. Needless to add, the competition will be far less tough than the one for landing a JEE seat.

This test for the million-rupees-a-doctor group will be different in another way; it will be conducted in English only (JEE gives students the option to answer in Bengali as well).

But a question still remains; the MCI is yet to give its approval to either the UCM or the Midnapore MBBS college. Teachers have questioned the government’s wisdom in finalising the million-rupee-seats without the MCI first allowing a hike in the total number of medical seats.

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