With prospects fading of a two-month extension from the central government, the state is looking at the possibility of refunding the money it took from medical students as “enhanced examination fees” for admission under the quota system.
After failing to get a nod from the Medical Council of India (MCI) for increasing 200 medical seats in the MBBS courses this year, despite several inspections at SSKM Hospital and Midnapore Medical College and Hospital, the government had urged the the centre for two months’ grace to improve infrastructure at the hospitals.
However, the MCI and the centre have sent out strong signals that they are not keen on any extension, and the Bengal government’s ambitious plans have suffered a rude jolt. “We have not yet given up hope of being granted permission. But refunding the money is the option we are considering at the moment,” admitted the special secretary (education) S.N. Banerjee on Tuesday.
On August 17, more than 1,156 candidates for this year’s MBBS courses had paid the “enhanced fees” to write the admission tests, against an entrance fee of Rs 1,000 each. The MCI refusal came a few days later.
The students’ hopes of joining the new courses are dwindling. Now, the Guardians’ Forum, along with the All India Democratic Students’ Organisation, has decided to move the vacation bench of Calcutta High Court, seeking an injunction into the entire process of introducing a quota system in medical education. The petition is likely to be moved on Wednesday.
The petitioners will also seek the court’s intervention in getting seats kept vacant by the government filled up as soon as possible. “These seats (around 70) were deliberately kept vacant to accommodate medical students who opted for the enhanced fee quota. After a re-counselling session on September 27, some of them were admitted, but more than 50 seats are still vacant,” claimed Mridul Sarkar, a spokesman for the petitioners. Sarkar pointed out that the government had flouted a Supreme Court guideline by conducting two separate entrance exams for the same MBBS course.
Meanwhile, sources in the health department say the government is planning to cancel the fee-quota admission tests and refund the money.
To make matters worse, the government, on September 26 — four days before the September 30 deadline set by the Supreme Court for admissions to MBBS courses this year— published a merit list of 150 students, who took the examination under the “enhanced fee quota”, giving the impression that students who harboured dreams of becoming doctors by paying enhanced fees might still have a chance.