The United Democratic Front (UDF) has called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Thiruvananthapuram district on 28th September. This in protest against police action on Kerala Youth congress workers who had staged a protest outside the state Secretariat against the fee hike in self-financing medical colleges.
The protest turned chaotic as police threw stun grenades at the venue where Youth Congress leaders Dean Kuriakose and C.R. Mahesh were holding a hunger strike against the fee hike. The situation turned violent for a while as police lathi charged Youth Congress workers who pelted stones at them.
The controversial fee hike
On September 1st, the Kerala state government came to an agreement with Private Self Financing Medical College Managements on the fee structure for medical and dental courses.
As per the agreement, these colleges were mandated to allocate 50% of seats for merit. Out of this 50%, an annual fee of Rs 25,000 was fixed for 20% of merit seats reserved for financially backward students. For the remaining 30% merit seats, an annual fee of Rs 2.5 lakh was fixed. The same merit seat student had to.pay only Rs 1.85 lakh as fee last year.
The fees structure has been considerably altered even for Dental medicine courses.
Government had earlier decided that admissions for all seats, including management quota seats, would be conducted through common counselling. The decision was taken by state government after the Supreme Court and Union Health Ministry issued directives saying that the admissions to self-financing medical colleges in the state should be on the basis of a common list prepared by the State government based on the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET).
As per the directive, 50% of the seats in self-financing colleges should be given to students who appeared for entrance conducted by the state government and the rest 50 % from NEET. This move so that all medical seats would come under merit category.
The Kerala Private Medical College Management Association (KPMCA) had strongly condemned this directive and opposed the state government.
Though state government approached Supreme court seeking exclusion from NEET this year as the state had already conducted entrance exams, but SC held that the admission for medical studies shall be held by common test, NEET. Meanwhile private management colleges approached Kerala High court and it permitted all self-financing medical and dental colleges in the state to go ahead with admission process for the management quota seats.
This created a confusion and armed with the HC order, KPMCA pressurised the government to let them hike fees. Though the state government resisted it to an extent, they finally came to an agreement, allowing these colleges to go ahead with the fee hike. Managements had demanded that the fee be hiked to Rs 4.4 lakh per annum, and finally agreed to Rs 2.5 lakh.
Youth Congress alleged that the state government advocate had not argued well in the Supreme Court, resulting in the order.
“It was a mistake from the part of State government. It could not win in SC and then agreed to increase fees. Government took a stand in support of private managements,” Youth Congress General Secretary D.V.Vinodkrishna told The News Minute.
He also said that Youth Congress would continue their protest till their demands are met.
But the admissions would be over by September 30th and reverting to the old fee structure seems to be an impractical move now. Cancelling the entire admission process would inconvenience students the most.
Youth Congress says their demand is not for cancelling admissions, but to ensure that the fee is reduced and future instalments can be tweaked.
“Though students have paid the first instalment, the next payments can be reduced,” Vinodkrishna said.