With the Punjab government allowing a free hand to private medical colleges to fill vacant NRI seats, you might think MBBS and BDS seats may well be auctioned through the backdoor. Well, the future seems to be here already, and the sale is on.
Monday's government notification officially allowed an extra fee of Rs. 4 lakh per seat for MBBS and Rs. 1.5 lakh for BDS, but with aspirants willing to spend a fortune for the 'Dr' tag, and agents issuing newspaper advertisements, HT sought to know how much it actually costs to get a degree that could make an aspiring doctor's life, but prove fatal for the patients. Apparently, it does not matter what's your rank in the Punjab Pre-Medical Entrance Test (PMET), all you need is the right amount, usually upwards of Rs. 50 lakh.
After a random scan of ads, we called up Jalandhar-based Bharat Mahajan (98155-22701), who offers: "Admission guidance 2012-2013 - MBBS in Punjab under NRI/Laps[e] Quota seats." This reporter posed as the guardian of an MBBS aspirant, who has scored 552 marks and is ranked 812 in the Punjab PMET. He said he will charge "1 lakh US dollars" (around Rs. 56 lakh) for admission fee and another Rs. 2 lakh for his "services". He clarified that he "will be able to ensure admission in only private colleges, not the government ones."
When asked to name the colleges, he listed out one in the heart of Malwa, another in Doaba region, and another near Chandigarh, "depending on the availability of the seats". When told that the student "does not have any NRI certificate", he said, "I don't need any NRI certificate. We need nothing; you just get your documents!"
The payment plan? Half the money before admission, and the rest of the money "after the work is done".
But we did not take Mahajan as the last word, and contacted another agent (99903-80005). This advertisement did not mention any names, and the woman who picked up the phone, too, refused to reveal her identity. When we told her about the rank 812, and she quickly named an institute in Malwa and said, "The package is worth Rs. 50 lakh." After a little haggling, she agreed to a discount of Rs. 1 lakh.
This, a day after a Punjab government notification allowed private medical colleges to conduct their own counselling for seats in the 15% NRI quota that remain vacant.