State medical colleges aren't the first choice of the brightest of students. Candidates who earn top ranks in the Punjab Medical Entrance Test (PMET) conducted by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), Faridkot, don't want to study in any of the colleges it governs.
Even the severe shortage of specialist doctors in Punjab has failed to compel the state government to improve the medical education infrastructure, guidelines and counselling.
Candidates with first, second and third ranks in the PMET have the luxury of studying on any of the nine campuses across the state, yet all three toppers this year decided to go out of the state in search of better colleges.
Arshdeep Kaur and Anish Jindal were joint-first in the PMET. Arashdeep went to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and Anish to Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, Delhi. Both had a handsome score in all-India medical entrance test of the central board of secondary education (CBSE).
Deepak Walia, who was third, also avoided all of the BFUHS campuses and chose to study at Chandigarh Medical College. "I found a better infrastructure in Delhi," said Anish. "Most toppers from Punjab prefer to seek medical education in Delhi or other outside states."
"We don't have good teachers in the medical colleges of Punjab, and most of our good students go outside the state for better education," said Dr MS Gill, father of Arshdeep Kaur. Arshdeep's elder brother also had second rank in the PMET in 2009, and he also picked a college outside.
Scam dents image
"The recent controversy created by the Punjab government over leftover seats in the non-resident Indian (NRI) quota has damaged the image of medical education in the state," said a teacher at the BFUHS (name withheld on request because the teacher doesn't have the authority to speak with the press officially). "The nexus of private colleges and admission agents has made it appear as if merit has nothing to do with medical education in Punjab and it's only money that can buy you a certificate or a seat."
Seats fall short
Also, nearly 2,500 students cleared the PMET, but the state had seats for only 1,070. When medical colleges across the country have added 3,595 seats, Punjab is the only state where the number of seats has fallen by 150 after the Medical Council of India (MCI) declining to regularise Chintpurni Medical College, Pathankot.
It is no surprise that not a single seat has been added into the government medical colleges of the state in last 34 years.
"We have moved a proposal to the Central government for increasing the seats in the Medical colleges in Faridkot, Patiala and Amristar," BFUHS vice-chancellor, Dr SS Gill, stated in reply to a question. "Two more medical colleges are likely to open next year, which will take the number of seats in Punjab from 1,070 to nearly 1,400."