Kochi: The Supreme Court judgment fixing Rs 55 lakh as the fee for MBBS course in self-financing colleges comes as the result of a series of lapses the government has committed on the issue. The climax also marks the end of the left students’ organisations’ clamour for at least three decades for considering merit and social justice as factors that govern admissions to professional colleges. The LDF had last year taken the plea that the government had just been voted to power and had got no sufficient time to tackle the issue that has been foxing Kerala’s higher education sector for long. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had even said the government would start the process sufficiently early so that it can take all aspects into account. But the government did nothing, except for naming a new head for the committee.
The government also failed to cash in on the golden opportunity the Supreme Court and the central government together provided it by making the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) the basis of all admissions. It was a powerful tool that could ensure that the colleges do not undermine merit by jacking up the fees. However, the failure of the fee regulatory committee to timely initiate a proper process to arrive at a fee taking into consideration various factors such as the investments made and infrastructure facilities provided has resulted in the state government searching for an answer when courts took up the case by college managements seeking higher fees.
The government had no answer when the managements told the Supreme Court that medical colleges in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu charge between Rs 15 lakh and Rs 20 lakh while the fact is that they do not charge this fee for all seats and admit a per cent of students with fees equivalent to what is charged in government colleges. The committee’s failure also robbed the government of a chance to present before the court the rationale for fixing a lower fee.
To cream it all, the government committed a criminal negligent act by refusing to institute a scholarship fund as proposed by the fee regulatory committee using the excess fees (Rs 5 lakh per student) for the economically weaker students, and leaving the job to the managements. The managements, on their part, said they will take up the issue only after the admissions are over. The collective failure of the government and the committee has effectively ensured that only those who are willing to pay `55 lakh can take admission, on the hope that there could be some reduction in the fee. This has stopped a section of students who, though had secured higher ranks, was unable to pay the higher fees, thus undermining the very purpose of introducing NEET.