The state government's claims about filling NRI and management quota seats in private medical colleges on merit basis notwithstanding, a section of candidates and their parents on Sunday accused the Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) here of committing serious irregularities to admit non-deserving favourites.
The agitated applicants threatened to approach the high court soon to seek justice and a high-level probe into the admission process.
Talking to HT, Liakat Ali of Malerkotla alleged that though his nephew Arfan Mohammad secured 544 marks in the entrance test, the lone seat under the backward class category at the PIMS was allotted to a candidate with 340 marks on Sunday.
"During the September 26 counselling on the PIMS campus, Mohammad was placed in the waiting list and was asked to appear again in the September 30 counselling even as the seat remained vacant. The PIMS authorities assured us that he would get admission on merit. But they denied him the seat, saying he should have submitted a separate application with the college as well. He had already applied in the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, and had also attended counselling here four days ago. We will approach the high court to seek justice," Ali said, adding that seats were being "sold".
Interestingly, the PIMS authorities had, on Saturday, issued an advertisement in newspapers inviting applications for filling a Backward Class (BC) and a Schedule Caste (SC) seat, apart from unfilled NRI quota seats, but made it mandatory to secure application forms by noon on the same day itself and fixed 4 pm as the deadline for receiving the forms. Neither the details of unfilled NRI quota seats nor any contact number or admission helpline number was published in the advertisement for "obvious" reasons.
Ayushi from Ferozepur alleged that the PIMS authorities wanted her to deposit Rs 20 lakh in cash on the spot or bank guarantee of the same amount as fee for the full term of the course. "First they refused to consider me for counselling on the pretext that I didn't apply separately with the college, but later in the evening, they agreed to consider me under the NRI quota and demanded an undertaking that I would pay Rs 55 lakh as course fee in case court decides on charging NRI quota fee even from non-NRI students. I was virtually forced out of the admission process," she said.
Sumangla, mother of another applicant, Aditi, alleged that though her daughter was admitted and they deposited Rs 4 lakh as fee with PIMS officials on September 26, she was told to deposit a bank guarantee of Rs 16 lakh immediately. "Although there is a provision in the prospectus for submitting a surety bond as well, the PIMS authorities remained adamant on bank guarantee for the full course fee in advance or cash payment. We were forced to surrender the seat as PIMS officials threatened to forfeit the cash we had already deposited with them. This is sheer injustice with meritorious students," Sumangla said, adding that the PIMS authorities even threatened to mark Aditi as absent in classes if she did not sign an undertaking on surrendering the seat.
Many applicants alleged that the detailed list of vacancies was neither made public nor periodically updated after filling of every seat during the entire counselling process. They alleged that the advertisement was released in newspapers with low circulation.
PIMS director-principal Dr Kulbir Kaur refuted the allegations, claiming that admissions were being conducted purely on merit. "Last year, a student decided not to pursue studies for want of money. That seat unnecessarily got blocked and we suffered a loss on account of the student's inability to pay the fee. So, it was decided to seek bank guarantees for full course fee in advance," she said, maintaining that none of the students was forced to surrender seats.
"We properly advertised the seats and made the updates on vacancies available to the applicants in advance. Dr GS Ahir as a university representative and Dr Vijay Kumar as a state government representative are on the counselling panel apart from me, and the process is fair and transparent," said Dr Kulbir.