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MEDICAL MUDDLE

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 13:40 IST
Highlight Story

Madhya Pradesh High Court is scheduled to hear a petition against cancellation of the D-MAT — 2006 on Tuesday. If the court sets aside the State Governmentt’s decision to hold a fresh D-MAT through the Professional Examination Board (PEB), it will be a shot in the arm of the Association of Private Medical and Dental Colleges. But doubts over credibility of the test will remain. In case the court upholds the government decision, students will have to face a test afresh.

Which could mean that it would take at least another one month for the selected students to join courses in the State’s private dental and medical colleges. There are other problems too.

With Justice Gulab Gupta consenting to head the Judge’s Committee on Fee Fixation in professional institutions, clouds of uncertainly have been dispelled to some extent. But other doubts persist. Like, when will he take charge and announce a new fee structure?

Will the association of the medical and dental colleges easily accept his recommendations? From the experience of the row the Shachindra Dwivedi Committee had kicked off in the past, it is but natural to apprehend that the admission process is likely to be quite complex and troublesome.
These are immediate problems that the State Government must grapple with, having already messed up the admission process.       

Viewed in a larger perspective, the cancelled DMAT-2006 raises a fundamental question about the State Government’s role vis-à-vis healthcare. We have a plethora of schemes with express intention to improve chronically poor health indices in the State but we are handicapped by lack of qualified doctors to take care of the pressing need. The last government medical college in the State was opened nearly 40 years ago in Rewa. The sixth medical college in Sagar will take a couple of years to become operational.

Over the years, successive governments turned a Nelson’s eye to increasing shortfall of qualified doctors in the State for
one reason or the other even as the population kept growing, bringing in its wake a myriad health problems. Today the State is churning out engineers but the ratio of doctors and the population is getting increasingly skewed.

The State is facing a situation where the Health Minister is inviting doctors from neighbouring states with open arms but not many are willing to come. Paradoxically, there are aspirants in the State who are willing to cough up Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh to become a doctor, as the arrest of a private college employee indicated. It would be too much to expect from a doctor who spent Rs 15 lakh to buy his seat in a private medical college to go to rural areas for serving the poor.

Unless the Government decides to open more medical colleges, rural healthcare problem could not be addressed effectively. A welfare state cannot take shelter behind the facetious argument that it does not have enough resources to fund medical colleges. Health and education are the best investments for a state to prosper in the long run.   

The present row raises several questions Hindustan Times tries to put the matter in perspective.

BEING ONLY three and nine in numbers, the State’s private medical and dental colleges had not quite registered in the public memory. They had rather insignificant strength (250 and 800 students respectively) as compared to engineering colleges that churn out technocrats in thousands every year in the State. Occasionally people would get to know about their existence and that too mostly for wrong reasons. More often than not, the private medical and dental colleges made headlines in newspapers when the High Court rapped them on the knuckles for allegedly betraying the students’ trust on fees or on some other counts.

A hasty government decision, however, brought the colleges into sharp focus overnight, as it were. In May this year the State Government decided to constitute a three-member committee headed by Director, Medical Education, to oversee common entrance test in the private medical and dental colleges.

The decision followed the request of the Association of Private Dental and Medical Colleges (APDMC) for their own entrance test. The request was based on a Supreme Court verdict on August 12, 2005 which allowed private professional colleges to conduct their own admission process without the State Government’s interference.

In acceding to the request, the State Government, however, did not bother to fulfil an essential criterion in the apex court judgment; that a judge’s committee will oversee the entrance examination process.

The Government decision raised a massive storm. Allegations of corruption flew thick and fast. Leader of Opposition Jamuna Devi was quick to allege that the Government struck a Rs 50 crore deal with private medical colleges for allowing them to conduct an admission test. Health Minister Ajay Vishnoi’s role came under cloud. His alleged ownership of a nursing home in Jabalpur was sought to be linked with the decision.

But, had it not been for the very strong opposition from the BJP’s own student’s wing – Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)— the Government might have weathered the political storm. From the day one, the ABVP made it clear that it is determined to take the battle against the decision to its logical end. And, as eventually transpired, the Parishad triumphed. 

The ABVP petitioned the High Court that separate entrance exam would promote corruption and harm the poor meritorious students. The court was convinced. It stayed the entrance exam and scrapped the three-member government committee. Instead, the court ordered constitution of two judge’s committees – one for monitoring admission process in private professional institutes and the other for fees fixation in these institutes.

Thus, Justice Chandresh Bhushan committee came into being. The committee reviewed the entire admission process proposed by the APDMC and also heard representations of the ABVP, which insisted that the entrance exam should not be conducted without fee structure being finalised.

The committee favoured the association’s stand and fixed August 13 as date for common entrance examination. To assuage the ABVP’s ruffled feathers, Justice Chandresh Bhushan promised strict monitoring on the test to ensure free and fair process. However, things continued to slip out of his hands.

The entrance exam had come under clouds.  Just ahead of the test, question papers were allegedly leaked; during the examination both pencils and pens were allowed, giving rise to more doubts.

The ABVP was all fire and brimstone. It demonstrated at the examination venue as well as in front of the judge’s office. Justice Chandresh Bhushan’s assurance to look into the irregularities didn’t cut ice with the ABVP. The dice was cast for protracted battle. It was apparent that the ABVP is no longer inclined to trust the committee. It approached the Chief Minister for justice.

Even as the committee was mulling over action on the complaints of irregularities, an employee of RKDF College was arrested on the charge of seeking money to facilitate admission to People’s Medical College.

This was a major turning point in the sordid sage of corruption. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after meeting Justice Chandresh Bhushan ordered a probe into the whole examination process. Within 48 hours, the result was out: the examination was cancelled. The only member of the probe committee who opposed the decision was, of course, Justice Chandresh Bhushan. A week later, the Government decided that the Professional Examination Board (PEB) will conduct the D-MAT. The issue is not settled yet. Matter is still in the High Court.

The ABVP is still not content. The organisation has filed another petition in the High Court questioning the steps taken by the State Government to enact a comprehensive law for admission process in private professional colleges, to implement the provisions of the 93rd amendment to the Constitution (of reservations for the economically and socially backward classes in private institutes) and the fixing of fee structure. The High Court has directed the State Government to file reply in this regard till August 29.


It's working in neighbouring states!
Even as the private medical and dental entrance exam has landed in major controversy in the State, at least two  major states are doing fine. They  have gone ahead with parallel entrance exams for private and unaided medical/dental/ engineering institutes.

In Karnataka, the Consortium of Medical, Engineering and Dental College of Karnatka organised the COMEDK-2006 - a parallel entrance test on May 28. The Karnataka State Assembly has already passed a bill in April 2006 making the process of this parallel test legal. In neighbouring Maharashtra  the Association of Managements of Unaided Private Medical and Dental Colleges - organised the ASSO-CET 2006 on May 1 this year.

Similarly the Association of Managements of Unaided Engineering Colleges, Maharashtra held the MH-ENG-ASSO-CET 2006 on May
28 and the admission process is going on.

DMAT row
NSUI national secretary Rashmi Pawar charged the ABVP of stage-managing the entire DMAT-2006 controversy and causing students and guardians a lot of misery by getting the examination cancelled. 

At a press conference in Bhopal on Monday, she charged that the controversy and allegations of irregularities during the DMAT were mainly sponsored by the ABVP and in Ujjain, a centre superintendent actually lodged a police complaint against the ABVP workers for disrupting the exam.  She said that with support of the government the ABVP has tried to play with the future of the students and cause them great financial and mental problem.  The re-examination would surely cause agony to the students and guardians, she said.

API stunned
While the Association of Private Dental and Medical Colleges (APDMC)  went ahead to demand holding of parallel entrance test following the Supreme Court decision of August 12, 2005, the Association of Professional Institutes (API) - representing the technical colleges - opted to conducted admissions on the basis of Pre-Engineering Test (PET) 2006 held by the Professional Education Board (PEB).

However this did not prevent controversy as the Justice Chandresh Bhushan Committee decided to scrap the 15 percent management quota in private colleges. The API took the matter to the High Court, following which the quota was restored. The API had then taken a clear stand that if it had known that the quota would be scrapped it would have gone ahead to conduct its independent entrance exams.

Amazing paradoxes
Paradoxes about Madhya Pradesh never cease to amaze. It is a State that is inviting doctors from neighbouring states with open arms because there aren’t enough to take care of the pathetic healthcare in rural areas. But it is also a state where some aspirants are said to be ready to cough up Rs 10 to 15 lakh to become doctor.


Justice unruffled
Justice Chandresh Bhushan faced the fury of the ABVP which was adamant on cancellation of D-MAT-2006. (In the picture he was listening to a charged-up activist explaining ‘irregularities’ in the conduct of the entrance test. But Justice Bhushan remained unruffled. He was the only member of the probe committee who opposed the government decision.
Fee structure when 

Justice Gulab Gupta has consented to head the Judge’s Committee on Fee Fixation in professional institutions. But doubts persist. Like, when will he take charge and announce a new fee structure? Will the association of the medical and dental colleges easily accept his recommendations?

Legal tangles
Most of the State’s private medical and dental colleges have no permanent recognition from the Medical/Dental Councils of India. They are run on annual permission basis. In last one month alone, at least three of these colleges have been reprimanded by the High Court.

The People’s Medical College, Bhopal, was served notice upon a petition of two students who alleged irregularities in admission process of management quota for session 2005-06. The students have charged that the college administration had asked for Rs 20 lakh per seat. Similarly the Modern Dental College, Indore was rapped along with the State Government for conducting entrance exam for MDS course for 2006-07 session despite the High Court staying the entire admission process.

The Ujjain-based R D Gardi Medical College was served notice along with State Government and the Medical Council of MP for not seeking MCI recognition and thus creating hurdles for the MBBS pass-outs from the college in getting their registration.

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