Bharathi, Divya, Thanga Pechi, Yuvanraj. The youngsters from Tamil Nadu had one dream in common – to be doctors. Ironically, they ended up sharing the same predicament – all of them qualified for private medical seats under the Tamil Nadu government’s 7.5 per cent quota for government school students, but couldn’t get admission due to their inability in paying the tuition fee.
Not just these four, there are many students from humble backgrounds who despite getting admissions to private colleges during the medical counselling last week, had to return home with a broken heart due to a small miscommunication from the government’s side – that it will pay for their course.
It is to be noted that in government colleges, the tuition fee roughly comes around ₹14,000 per year and ₹4 lakh in private colleges.
Although the state government claims that it announced financial assistance for students coming from impoverished backgrounds under the quota on November 18, it has been alleged that the same was not communicated to parents, students or private colleges ahead of the medical counselling on November 18, 19 and 20.
Related news: AIADMK, DMK fight over footing bill of medical students
Due to the lack in communication, many students who got seats in private medical colleges had to opt out by submitting a letter, expressing their inability to join the course. Others who didn’t submit the letter were pushed to the waiting list. Many of these students had not even selected a college as they were not sure if they will be admitted.
Under the 7.5 per cent sub-quota, a total of 405 government seats (including MBBS and BDS) have been set aside in both government and private medical colleges. Tamil Nadu has a total of 3,650 MBBS seats and 194 BDS seats in 26 government medical colleges, under the state quota. Of this, 227 MBBS seats and 12 BDS seats are reserved for government school students. During the counselling, except six BDS seats, 399 seats were filled.
After the problems were reported in media, the DMK on November 21 volunteered to foot the expenses of students allotted seats in private medical colleges under the 7.5 per cent quota. The same day, the Tamil Nadu government, dubbed the DMK’s offer a ‘political stunt’ and said it has already taken care of the issue.
However, the damage was done by then.
In an interview to a Tamil magazine, revenue minister RB Udhayakumar said at least 35 students who were allotted seats in private colleges were not enrolled due to issues in paying fees and were put in the waiting list. These students had not submitted any letters though.
On November 23, the government, in a damage control mode, facilitated the admission of three students who had cleared for private medical colleges during the counselling on November 19 and hadn’t got admission.
However, unlike the three, many had not selected a college during the counselling and were not called again.
“The government should take steps to provide admission to the waitlisted students into private colleges and cancel the letters submitted by those who had chosen to opt out of the admission process. During the second round of counselling, where the All India Quota seats are to be surrendered, these students must be given a chance,” said Dr G R Ravindranath, general secretary, Doctors Association for Social Equality.
Speaking to The Federal, Dr R Narayana Babu, Director of Medical Education said that the students in the waiting list will be given a chance in the second round of counselling.
“In the second round, some seats will be surrendered. At that time, they can get a chance. Also, a six member selection committee will decide over the cancellation of the letters submitted by the students who opted out,” he said.
Fee, a major barrier
Many students who got admission into semi-government medical colleges (not under 7.5 percent quota) have complained of steep fee imposed by the institutes despite coming under the government’s wings.
Institutes like the Rajah Muthiah Medical College in Cuddalore district and IRT Perundurai Medical College in Erode district, which earlier functioned as private colleges are now run by the state government.
“When they were private colleges, they used to collect fees like any other private medical college. But now they are run by the government and should collect government fee accordingly. However, they still continue to collect fees in lakhs,” alleged Ravindranath.
While welcoming the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to pay up for students admitted in private colleges, Ravindranath said the government’s financial support should also be extended to students who are admitted in government medical colleges under this quota.
“Those coming from socially backward communities often find it difficult to pay the monthly hostel and mess fees. If they are SC/ST, they can get post-matric scholarship under which their hostel and mess fees are covered. While for OBC students, the Centre has capped the family income eligibility at ₹8 lakh per annum to avail the scholarship, the state government has fixed the same at a maximum of ₹2.5 lakh per annum for SC students. Because of this, a lot of deserving students whose family income limit is more than ₹2.5 lakh are unable to avail the scholarship. As the aim of the scheme is to help a maximum number of students pursue higher education, we demand that this income level is increased to ₹8 lakh in the state too,” Ravindranath added.
Under post-matric scholarship, if student joins a private college under government seat, he will be given ₹4,50,000 annually, which will be paid directly to the college. Adding to that ₹1,200 will be handed over to the student for mess fee.
“But private colleges continue to collect more fees than that fixed by the government-appointed committee. If an SC student gets a seat through management quota, he or she will be eligible for ₹12 lakh scholarship, every year. But under this scholarship, no SC student is given this amount,” said M Bharathan, state coordinator, Agam Foundation, Chennai.
In Tamil Nadu, the scholarship is regularly provided by the state government. It was ₹85,000 per year for engineering courses till 2018-2019, but was brought down to ₹50,000 from 2019-2020 for reasons unknown. It is done by the state and Centre has no role in it, Bharathan added.
Since, the 7.5 per cent quota is a horizontal reservation, it is spread across not only in the state’s existing 69 per cent reservation but also in the 31 per cent seats in Open Category. So, a forward community student who did his schooling from a government school can compete for the seats allotted under 7.5 per cent sub-quota within the 31 per cent. However, he should meet the cut-off prescribed for that category to compete. It is to be noted that Tamil Nadu has not implemented 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections till now.