The Congress on Friday demanded the resignation of Health Minister K.K. Shylaja over reports that private medical colleges in Kerala were charging capitation fees for admissions despite her claims to the contrary.
"Although she was saying that, this year, none of the private medical colleges in the state were charging any capitation fees for admissions to MBBS courses, on Friday she admitted that maybe private managements are charging capitation fees," Congress Kerala unit President V.M. Sudheeran told reporters.
"It is unfortunate even the government is not sure and the minister is also changing her stance. She is not fit to sit in the chair of a minister and she has to quit," he said.
Speaking in the assembly, she talked about the "likelihood" of private managements charging capitation fees, but earlier on Thursday she maintained that it was for the first time that this year no private medical colleges had charged capitation fees, following talks with the new government which allowed the managements to raise their annual fees.
For the fifth day in succession, the proceedings in the assembly ended soon after question hour with the Congress-led opposition continuing to protest both inside and outside the house.
"The government has cheated the students as not only are these managements collecting capitation fees, the annual fees have also been allowed to be raised. I place on the table of the house audio evidence that shows capitation fees being sought by the private managements," leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala said in the assembly.
The ongoing rates being collected as capitation fees by managements for a medical seat range between Rs 25 lakh to Rs 35 lakh, while the fees in the sector went up by a mere Rs 47,000 (during the five-year tenure of previous Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy), the Vijayan government has increased it by Rs 65,000 since the new government took office in May this year.
Replying to the charges of the opposition, Vijayan informed the house that all the evidence that the opposition had, if passed on to the government, will be handed over to the Vigilance department.
"We will ask the Vigilance to probe this," said Vijayan but maintained his position that they do not plan to bring down the fees, prompting opposition members to troop into the well of the house shouting slogans, forcing the Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan to wind up the day's session.
In his speech, young Congress legislator V.T. Balram vehemently protested the style and functioning of Vijayan.
"Three legislators of ours are on an indefinite hunger strike in front of the assembly for the past three days and while even veteran V.S. Achuthanandan and also the speaker paid a courtesy visit to enquire about their condition, you are yet to call on them. You do not even show respect to basic democratic principles while even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was courteous in taking the opposition into confidence," said Balram.
And, Friday saw, for the first time, the youth wing of the BJP also taking to the streets to protest the hike in fees and clashing with the police in front of the state secretariat.
With the rival factions sticking to their stands on this issue, normal functioning of the assembly appears difficult when the sitting resumes on Monday.