In an alarming move on Monday, the Punjab government paved the way for private medical colleges of the state to fill 15% of MBBS and BDS seats on their own.
These seats, originally reserved for NRI candidates, usually remained vacant and then converted into management quota seats. But even then these were filled as per the pre-medical test (PMT) conducted by Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, with an additional fee of Rs 4 lakh each for MBBS and Rs 1.5 lakh each for BDS.
According to the Monday notification issued by Anjali Bhawra, secretary, medical education and research department, the additional fee remains the same but these seats are now the prerogative of the colleges, a first in the history of medical education in the state. Now, private colleges themselves would hold the counselling for the 15% seats.
At present, of the 10 medical colleges in the state that have around 1,000 MBBS seats, seven are private colleges that would thus get 114 seats to fill. Similarly, there are around 1,400 BDS seats in 14 dental sciences colleges in Punjab. Of the 14, the 12 private colleges will have around 200 seats that they could hand out.
While sources in the government revealed that Faridkot-based Baba Farid varsity vice-chancellor (V-C) Dr SS Gill strongly opposed the decision, he refused to comment when contacted by HT.
These colleges do have a 35% management quota anyway, but the university fills those seats, too, on merit. Indeed there are institutions in some neighbouring states, and also private colleges of other streams of study in Punjab, where some seats are entirely the prerogative of the college, but private medical colleges in Punjab have got that freedom only now, allegedly after much lobbying and haggling.
Bhawra said the notification "has been done as per the orders", but refused to reveal whose orders these were. HT also contacted Bhagat Chunni Lal, the state's minister for medical education and research, and asked him if such a move could lead to eventual sale, even auction, of the seats. He replied, "We are very much concerned about the quality of education. That's all!"