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Counter-argument: ‘Facts show my dept is guarding student interests’

In their article titled ‘Can money replace merit in medical education?’, the writers exposed their lack of knowledge about the entire issue, and cherry-picked facts to portray me in a negative manner.

punjab Updated: Jun 20, 2018 09:21 IST
Brahm Mohindra,Healthcare,government-quota
Punjab minister for medical education and health Brahm Mohindra(HT File)

It was really disheartening to read the article written by Dr GS Grewal and Dr Arun Mitra (Guest Column, HT, June 19) holding me personally liable to defending the “decision to scrap” government-quota seats in two private medical colleges of Punjab. The two doctors, who claim to be members of the core committee of Alliance for Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (AEDH), seem to have completely forgotten the very first ethic of writing: presenting facts.

In their article titled ‘Can money replace merit in medical education?’, the writers exposed their lack of knowledge about the entire issue, and cherry-picked facts to portray me in a negative manner. They have jumped the gun by saying that the state government has taken the decision to scrap the quota in Adesh Medical College in Bathinda and Sri Guru Ram Dass Medical College in Amritsar. This is completely baseless. Let me start from scratch and set the record straight.

The fact is, taking a historic pro-student decision on February 6, my department notified that from the private medical colleges will charge government-quota fee from 50% of the students. Earlier, all students were admitted by private colleges under management quota, and the fee used to be very high. How our February notification was to benefit students can be calculated from the fact that a private college charges Rs 6.6 lakh per year, and the government-quota fee is Rs 2.2 lakh!

As this decision was striking hard on the pockets of private colleges, they gave representations to my department at various levels, including to my office. As per procedure, I forwarded the representations to the chief minister’s office and these were further sent for opinion from the legal remembrance (LR) department. I did that because the state government could not be a mute spectator if managements of medical colleges found it difficult to run the institutes. The managements cannot be left unheard, because ensuring there are enough number of doctors passing out each year is also a prime concern of the state.

Meanwhile, managements of the private colleges moved the Punjab and Haryana high court and thus, in its remark, the LR department refrained from giving any comment, citing that the matter is sub judice.

This is the actual position, but the writers seem to have created a hypothetical situation when they claim that this “decision” would set a wrong precedent for other private medical colleges. Which decision they are talking about — the pro-student decision notified by my department in February this year, or the decision which has not been taken yet (as the matter is sub judice)? The claims that the government allowed private colleges to set their own terms and conditions for admissions are funny, far from facts.

Since the last three years, admissions are being done through the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). Even in management and NRI quotas, private colleges cannot overrule merit. The medical education department keeps a tab to ensure that there is no overcharging. There was no question of private institutes setting terms and conditions.

Also, let me make it clear that I have not justified closure of Gian Sagar Medical College and Chintpurni Medical College due to lack of resources. I don’t know from where the writers picked up my statements and twisted them in the article. I have always stated that these institutes were forced to shut because of financial mismanagement on their part.

The writers also tried to portray my department as anti-student. They have forgotten the management of a crisis last year, when 1,500 students admitted to Gian Sagar Medical College and 250 of Chintpurni Medical College were facing instability after these colleges decided to shut down. My department immediately made a plan and rehabilitated these students in other colleges. Most of them were admitted on much cheaper government quota fee. It’s a matter of record that even the Medical Council of India (MCI), at many stages, appreciated Punjab’s swift crisis-management.

As a minister, and as a politician, I have always welcomed criticism, if it is based on facts and logic. Unfortunately, in their article, the intellectual minds tried to sensationalise things. If anybody has any suggestion in mind, I welcome them to come for a cup of tea to my office and share their valuable comments.

(The writer is Punjab minister for medical education and health, views expressed are personal)

First Published: Jun 20, 2018 09:21 IST