Even as a circular issued last month shielded students across engineering, management, pharmacy and architecture, among other fields, from the pressure of paying tuition fees amid the lockdown, medical students in private colleges and deemed universities have had no such protection. These students, many of whom are at the forefront of India’s medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have said it is difficult in this scenario to arrange the money, which stands at an average of Rs 20 lakh across states.
A circular issued by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) on April 15 instructed institutes and colleges under it to not insist on payment of fees, including admission fees, during the lockdown. Medical institutes and deemed universities come under the purview of either the University Grants Commission or Medical Council of India and do not have to abide by AICTE’s instructions. A check by The Indian Express across several private medical colleges reveals that, between April and May, some institutes sent either written or verbal notices to students demanding fee payment. Some even threatened them with penalties like non-payment of monthly stipend to their post-graduate students.
“While our college issued notice regarding fee payment in March and the last date of payment was April 15, 2020, students are receiving calls from the office to make the fee payment. Students are also being told that if they don’t make their fee payment, they will not receive their stipend. In any case, I have not received my stipend since December,” said a postgraduate student at Christian Medical College (CMC)–Ludhiana.
CMC Ludhiana said it has no affiliation to AICTE and the circular therefore does not apply to it. The college follows a policy set by the health ministry, while its doctoral courses are affiliated to the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences. Neither MCI nor BFUHS have issued such instructions, so CMC Ludhiana has not deferred seeking fees from its postgraduate, diploma or super speciality residents. CMC-Ludhiana has also said that claims that it has withheld the stipend of its students over non-payment of dues are “incorrect”.
Some states like Tamil Nadu have specified that private colleges should not compel parents or students to pay fees or pending dues during the lockdown, but others have not taken such action.
Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhubaneswar issued a notice on April 22 asking all post graduate students (2018 and 2019 batch) to deposit outstanding college and hostel dues by May 31. The notice by its principal and director of the institute’s school of medicine said “this may be treated as top priority and strictly adhered to”. It added that those who have paid should show their RTGS certificate and get payment receipt from the accounts section “to avoid any further action by the management.”
It is not clear what action the management plans to take against those unable to pay their dues by the deadline, as emailed queries to the institute on May 11 and a follow up on May 12 remained unanswered by press time Tuesday.
“On one hand, private medical colleges are asking for fees. But, how many of them have come forward voluntarily and offered their large, 500-1000 bed hospitals for COVID-19?” said World Medical Association treasurer and Indian Medical Association past president Dr Ravindra S Wankhedkar.
Some students said they have been finding it difficult to arrange the money to pay their fees during the lockdown. “They are regularly calling me for the fees,” said a postgraduate student at Telangana’s Medi Citi Institute of Medical Sciences on condition of anonymity. “No formal notice or mail. Just calls asking us to pay as soon as possible.”Queries to Medi Citi about this on May 11 and 12 also remained unanswered.
New students admitted for PG courses in Telangana have taken issue with the state allowing fees to more than double across categories. They have to give colleges a bank guarantee for the next two years, said Dr PS Vijayender, ex-chairman of the Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association.
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