PG aspirants allege that there has been an illegal shifting of seats from the government quota to the Management and NRI quotas in private colleges, especially for high-demand branches of medicine.

Plum seats for NRIs less under govt quota in Ktaka medical colleges PG aspirants
news Education Saturday, April 21, 2018 - 16:27

“The state government is destroying our dreams, careers. Everything we prepared for in the last year has just gone to nothing,” says Dr Ganesh*, a postgraduate medical aspirant in Karnataka.

Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Dr Ganesh studied MBBS at a deemed university in Karnataka. After successfully fighting against the Karnataka government over its domicile rule, which was quashed by the Supreme Court earlier this month, Dr Ganesh now gears up for his next battle.

Having failed to secure a seat after the first round of state counselling, Dr Ganesh’s hopes on the second round are fading. This, he says, is because there is a shortage of seats under the government quota in private institutions. “I want to do Surgery. I was expecting a B or C type college in round 1. And I was hoping to get upgraded later. But I haven’t been allotted a single seat in round 1.”

Like Dr Ganesh, there are scores of PG medical aspirants whose future hangs in the balance owing to a shortage of government and private quota seats.

Dr Anitha*, who was born and raised in Karnataka, had her dreams set on becoming a dermatologist. But with Dermatology being one of the most competitive branches, her next preference was to do General Medicine. Having been allotted a Psychiatry seat in an institute in Tirupati during the all-India counselling, Dr Anitha hoped to get a better seat in Karnataka’s state counselling.

But the first round of state counselling has dashed her hopes and dreams. “I opted for all subjects in the first round of counselling. I wanted to do dermatology but was allotted Community Medicine.” Community Medicine, Dr Anitha says is a para-clinical programme that has few takers.

‘Uneven distribution of seats’

While there is still another round of state counselling to go, Dr Ganesh and Dr Anitha say there is little hope, because the Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA) continues to distribute seats unevenly.

On March 25, the KEA, the state government agency that conducts counselling for the allotment of seats for postgraduate medical and dental courses, released the 2018 seat matrix. The seat matrix distributes PG seats across various branches of medicine and dentistry based on the Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006.

As per the Act, 33% government seats will be allocated in private, unaided, non-minority institutions for PG medical/dental seats; 42% of seats will fall under private quota; 15% will be distributed under NRI quota and 10% under Management quota.

The fee structure across these quotas is vastly different. The Karnataka government had in March hiked the fee structure for PG medical and dental courses by 15% for the 2018-2019 academic year. The fee for a government seat for a medical course is Rs 5.06 lakh per year, while it is Rs 7.59 lakh for a private quota seat. For dental, a government seat will cost Rs 2.58 lakh per year, while a private quota seat will cost Rs 4.04 lakh. The fee for NRI and Management quota seat, however, can range from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 85 lakh depending on the branch.

Clinical branches of medicine such as Radio Diagnostics, Dermatology, Paediatrics, General Medicine, General Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Orthopaedics are in high demand resulting in the fee skyrocketing under the NRI and Management quota.

Accusing the government of a scam, Dr Ganesh alleges that KEA’s seat matrix reveals that there has been illegal shifting of seats from the government quota to the Management and NRI quotas, especially for high-demand branches of medicine.

Take Radio Diagnosis, for example.

KEA’s seat matrix shows that there are 15 seats under the government quota, 14 under private quota and 40 in the other quota (21 under Management and 19 under NRI). That’s a total of 69 seats for Radio Diagnosis in the state.

But Dr Ganesh and Dr Anitha say it should be 23 seats under the government quota, 29 under private quota and 17 seats for Management and NRI together.

The distribution of seats is no different for MD Dermatology, another highly sought-after branch of medicine. KEA’s bulletin reveals that there are totally 50 seats for this PG branch, with 9 seats under the government quota, 11 under private quota and 30 seats in the other quota (9 for Management and 21 for NRI). What it should be, says Dr Anitha, is 17 seats under government quota, 21 under private and 12 for the other two quotas.

But this uneven distribution of seats does not happen for pre-clinical and para-clinical branches, ostensibly because they are not in high demand. For MD Anatomy (pre-clinical), there are 6 seats under the government quota, 37 under private quota and one seat each under Management and NRI quota.

MD Community Medicine, which is a para-clinical branch, is no different. Under the government quota, there are 25 seats, 39 for private quota, 3 for NRI and 1 for the Management quota. Significantly, the ratio hasn’t been followed for these low-demand seats either.

“This shifting of seats from the government quota to Management and NRI quota for highly lucrative branches like radio diagnosis is illegal. This has resulted in a shortage of seats in the government quota… meritorious students will have to cough up a lot more under the private quota or the Management or NRI quota, if they can even afford it,” says Dr Ganesh.

‘Counselling process vitiated’

Dr Ajith*, another PG medical aspirant, explains, “The reason pre-clinical and para-clinical courses are not in high demand is because no doctor would want to be in a lab. This seat distribution is a business. These colleges are minting money.”

Calling the uneven distribution of seats by KEA a “bureaucratic issue”, he points to the clauses in the 2006 Act that clearly state that there shall be a “rotation of disciplines every year”.

On April 13, PG aspirants sent a letter to the Chief Secretary, the Executive Director of KEA, and other officials of the state Health and Welfare Department pointing out that plum seats were being retained for the NRI and Management quotas, while offering a higher proportion of pre-clinical and para-clinical seats for the government and private quotas.

“It is observed that pre-clinical and para-clinical seats of insignificance demand and market value/fee load is surrendered consecutively and plum seats in good demand where the fee is substantial more than 15-20 times than the pre-clinical seats are retained as Management/NRI Share for making profit… The Government has failed to insist statutory share across the pre-clinical, para-clinical and clinical disciplines which shall be by rotation of disciplines every year which clearly shows that the relevant clauses are not complied with. Hence the entire process of counselling initiated by them culminating with the seat matrix and consequential seats allocation for the year 2018 thereby is totally vitiated (sic),” states the letter.

Those who petitioned the officials are demanding that the KEA rectify the defect and offer a fresh seat matrix in compliance with the clauses of the 2006 Act, to ensure a fair counselling process.

‘Private colleges are cross-subsidising fees’

Speaking to TNM, Dr S Sachidananda, Director of the Medical Education department, denies that that the 2006 Act is being violated.

“This is a consensual agreement to get more subsidised fees from third-party private colleges. No other state in India offers clinical seats at such a less rate. When private colleges are parting with seats for government quota, they are cross-subsidising fees with NRI and Management seats. And it is for that reason they may take one or two more clinical seats. But if you look at the overall seat matrix, this ratio is maintained – that is 33% for government quota.”

Arguing that over 70% of seats in Karnataka’s private colleges are subsidised while only 50% of seats are subsidised in other states, Dr Sachidananda says, “That is why Karnataka (medical colleges) is so much in demand.”

When asked why the rotation of seats was not taking place, the DME says, “If you are running a medical college, you will know what is in demand and what is not in demand. They have to cross-subsidise.”

But for those like Dr Ganesh and Dr Anitha, securing a postgraduate medical seat by shelling out lakhs is not an option.

“They are making life-saving people ineligible for PG by basing admissions on how much they can afford, or they are forcing them to settle for a para-clinical or pre-clinical branch. In a country with a shortage of quality speciality doctors, they are making medical education elitist,” says Dr Ganesh.

Left with no option, Dr Ganesh and some others have decided to move the Karnataka High Court over the issue. The matter will come up for hearing on Monday.

* Names changed


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