Punjab's medical education and research department headed by minister Bhagat Chunni Lal has failed to formally decide whether to regularise the admissions of over 450 students enrolled in the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course-2012 in 11 private colleges and allow them to sit in the first-year examination beginning on Wednesday.
On Monday, the government officials, including the minister, kept the issue under the wraps even as the matter was discussed at various levels, including at chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's.
This indecisiveness and lack of a formal communication from the government has left hundreds of students in the lurch. With their careers in jeopardy, these students, in a last-ditch effort, moved the Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday, seeking directions to the Punjab government to regularise their admissions, besides giving them the nod to sit in the examinations.
Both Bhagat Chunni Lal and principal secretary (medical education and research) Vini Mahajan dodged the issue. "Jo sahi hai, wo hum karenge (We will follow whatever is the right course)," is how the minister reacted before hurriedly disconnecting the phone. The principal secretary said: "The file is under process." She stoutly refused to clear the haze surrounding the matter.
On the other hand, Dr Kamal Baghi, president, Punjab Private Self-financed Dental and Medical Colleges Association said he met the principal secretary, who "told me that she had signed the file and taken the decision not to regularise the admissions".
At the root of the controversy is the Dental Council of India (DCI)'s decision to reject the Punjab government's proposal to regularise these admissions. As the private colleges are affiliated to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), Faridkot, the university has refused to issue the roll numbers to the students in question.
The issue snowballed into a major controversy after the BFUHS informed the government that the 11 private dental colleges "have admitted students to the BDS course in gross violation of the rules, regulations and guidelines issued by the Punjab government from time to time".
The state government then intimated the DCI that these admissions "have not been regularised" by the BFUHS.
But later, the BFUHS did a U-turn and asked the government that "…in the interest of careers of such a large number of candidates," the admissions be regularised.
Now, the fate of these students hangs in the balance.
BFUHS vice-chancellor Dr SS Gill said: "We will issue the roll numbers if the government regularises these admissions. So far (late Monday evening), I have not received any directions from the government."
"Everybody in the government is passing the buck and nobody is ready to take the responsibility," Dr Baghi said.
The contention of the private colleges is that the decision of the BFUHS and the government that these students are "non-qualified and non-appeared PMET-2012 students" is wrong.
"The (private) Adesh University of Bathinda in 2012 had registered over 60 students in the BDS course who were admitted as per the criteria the 11 private dental colleges followed in the case of over 450 students. How can there be two different parameters in two universities of the state?" asked Dr Baghi, who also met the chief minister, seeking his intervention in the matter.
"While the examinations of the BDS students of Adesh University begin on Tuesday, our students are awaiting roll numbers from the BFUHS," Dr Baghi said.
The private dental colleges management representatives on Monday knocked at the door of every authority concerned in the government to know what decision the government had taken. "But we wonder why the government is not formally informing us about its decision," they rued.