The state government’s health-sector blues showed no signs of taking on a happier hue as it suffered another body blow on Tuesday — this time, delivered by a court of law. The target — grand plans of roping in students who could afford to pay more than a million rupees to become doctors,
Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharjee of Calcutta High Court, in an interim order delivered on Tuesday, stayed the state government’s plans of filling up medical-college berths with students without them taking the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), as long as they could cough up the hefty amount. Justice Bhattacharjee was responding to an appeal by several successful JEE candidates who, despite finding their names on the merit list, were denied a chance to study medicine this year.
The petition was filed by Chayan Kumar Ray, who ranked 623rd in this year’s JEE, and 12 others. Despite their success in JEE, they were not being allowed to study to become doctors because of the government’s million-rupee-doctor plans, they alleged. All 13 petitioners said they were called by the authorities for the mandatory counselling before admission to medical and engineering colleges in the state and pleaded with the court to direct the state government to explain its stand.
“Why will meritorious students not find a place in medical colleges because the government has plans to fill up the seats — and its coffers — with students who do not deserve to be there'” they asked.
Justice Bhattacharjee, in his interim order, stayed the government move and asked it to file an affidavit explaining its stand within a fortnight from Tuesday.
The case will come up for hearing a week after that to enable the petitioners to file their reply to what the government has to say. The government’s plans to “sell” medical seats kicked up a storm of protest when they were announced and even during the process of implementation.
Right from the day the plans were announced to the day when the “far-easier” entrance examination for the million-rupee seats was held, there were protests that raged across all the four under-graduate medical colleges in the city.
Even CPM fronts like the Association of Health Service Doctors and the Students’ Federation of India found it difficult to justify the money-over-merit position adopted by the government or counter the uncomfortable questions raised by opposition groups, particularly the Medical Service Centre.
Even at the counselling centre (the Indian Museum), many successful JEE candidates — along with their parents — had given vent to their frustration after being denied a “fair chance”. Police intervention was required to restore order.
Tuesday’s court order brought cheer to the medical aspirants denied and sent the government scurrying to salvage its million-rupee seats.