About 500 students of Rajah Muthiah Medical College and Hospital have been on an indefinite strike for the last one month demanding that the state government take over the medical college and hospital.
The protest in the college affiliated to Annamalai University started on August 30 and many students have been on hunger strike for the last nine days.
“The fee for all the courses under Annamalai University is fixed at par with other government colleges, except dental and medical courses. This is the main issue. The fees are fixed by the syndicate of the university. For MBBS, the fee fixed by government in government run colleges is Rs. 13,600 and here we are paying Rs. 5, 54,000 annually. For MDMS, the fee fixed by government is Rs. 31,325 and here we are paying Rs. 9.8 lakhs,” said Balaji, a post-graduation student from the college.
Though the college comes under a state university, the fee structure of the medical college is like a self-financing college. Medical students want the government to take over the college and hospital and make fees at par with what is charged in 22 government medical colleges across the state. The students are also demanding free treatment for poor patients, improved facilities and that fee for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses must be according to government colleges.
In 2013, the Annamalai university was embroiled in a major controversy. The Tamil Nadu government suspended Vice Chancellor M Ramanathan after allegations of corruption were found to be prima facie true and IAS officer Shiv Das Meena was appointed as the university administrator.
Though the government had taken control of the administration, the medical college and hospital continued to function as a self-financing organization and charged fees like other self-financed institutes.
“They charge for everything from the patients, they collect Rs. 500 for even blood transfusion. During our protest, we even donated 100 bags of blood to Kamaraj hospital to protest against these issues,” said Balaji.
He added that the college has been pressurising them to stop protest but no indication has come of the college or government conceding to their demands. “They threaten us by saying that they would fail us in the exams and they won’t accept our dissertation. They have even given us show cause notices and memos for protesting. We have even petitioned the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Health secretary and Directorate of Medical Education. They keep stating that they will look into the matter but do not take any action,” said Balaji.
TNM was unable to reach the college authorities. However, the college authorities had told The Times of India that the government had taken control only of the Annamalai University and not the college. Moreover, they also added that he Madras high court passed an order in favour of the college administration regarding the fee structure after a section of students approached the court.
The students have been trying to garner attention on social media too, but the government doesn’t seem to be paying any attention.