Only weeks before the All India Pre-Medical Entrance Test (AIPMT), the Punjab government has suddenly changed the criteria for admission to its 85% state quota seats of MBBS/BDS courses for the 2014-15 session, leaving hundreds of aspirants from Chandigarh and neighbouring states in the lurch.
So far, students passing Classes 11 and 12 from the schools in Punjab were eligible for admission to its medical/dental colleges under the state quota.
But the latest notification of March 7 has made it mandatory for students to also have passed Class 10 from a school situated in Punjab to be eligible for the state quota.
The decision has come as a rude shock to hundreds of non-Punjab resident students who after passing the class 10 in their respective states had enrolled for the Plus Two classes in Punjab schools to meet the eligibility criteria. Punjab has 870 medical seats in both government and private medical colleges as compared to 100 in the only government medical college in Chandigarh.
The worst affected are Chandigarh students who have opted for Classes 11 and 12 from Punjab schools. The latest notification means they are eligible neither for the state quota in Punjab nor for the union territory quota in Chandigarh.
Even those who did their matriculation from Chandigarh schools and are currently appearing in Class 11 (medical stream) as students of Punjab schools would be left high and dry.
The move has evoked sharp reactions from both parents and students whose career will be severely impacted by the new notification which, they say, is "abrupt and arbitrary".
Chandigarh-based Dr Nandita Kakkar, whose daughter Apsara studies in Class 12 at an SAS Nagar school, said the decision would ruin her daughter's career. "She did her Class 10 from Chandigarh and then moved to SAS Nagar for Classes 11 and 12 with a view to getting admission in a Punjab medical college. But the new rules have made her ineligible both for Punjab and Chandigarh since the admission in Chandigarh medical college requires candidates to do Class 12 from a Chandigarh school," she said.
Mangun Kaur, a Chandigarh-based student, who did her Class 10 from Chandigarh and has been pursuing Class 12 from SAS Nagar, said, "I am unable to study after having seen this notification. This is gross injustice and will ruin my career."
Ambala-based Ayush Gupta, who is pursuing Class 12 from an SAS Nagar school, said the last-minute decision had put him under tremendous stress, especially when All India Pre-Medical Test was around the corner. "I feel so insecure," he said.
Demanding a rollback of the decision, Dr Arvind Goyal, a Chandigarh-based PMT trainer, said not only the Class-12 students but also those studying in Class 11 in Punjab would be affected.
"The current batches of Classes 11 and 12 should be exempted from the new criterion. The state government must take a sympathetic view of the situation keeping in mind the careers of these students," he said.
Parents to move court
Dr UP Singh, an affected parent from Chandigarh, said he was uniting the affected parents and intended to move the Punjab and Haryana high court against the "arbitrary" decision of the Punjab government. "I ask the state government as to where my daughter, who is now ineligible for both Punjab and Chandigarh medical colleges, should go? This is the height of injustice," he said.
'Move to safeguard interests of Punjab students'
Vini Mahajan, secretary, medical education and research, Punjab, said the decision was taken to safeguard the interests of bonafide residents of Punjab, who were facing a tough competition from non-resident students of Punjab, who were pursing Classes 11 and 12 from the state just to get the benefit of the state medical quota. "The decision has been taken with the view that only bonafide residents of the state get the benefit," she said, adding that those pursing Class 12 from here still had the option to compete in the 15% all India open quota.