Politics

The Utterly Confounding And Corrupt Ecosystem Of Medical Education In Tamil Nadu 

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In between the inexplicable and corrupt policies of the DMK and AIADMK regarding medical education, the poor students from the state suffer

The Tamil Nadu government scrapped the exclusive entrance exams for engineering and medical courses in the state in 2007. Before that, the cut-off mark for engineering and medical counselling was 300, out of which the entrance exam accounted for 100 marks, and the class 12 score, obtained in main subjects like physics, chemistry and biology (medicine cut-off), and physics, chemistry, maths (engineering cut-off), counted for 200.

However, from 2007, the practice of providing 100 marks for the counselling exam was scrapped and only the class 12 marks were considered for counselling to seats in engineering or medicine courses.

The reason given for scrapping the entrance exam was to help poor students from the villages, who do not have sufficient opportunities to prepare for the entrance examinations.

However, experts have repeatedly claimed that scrapping of entrance exams have deteriorated the quality of students. The chairman of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, (a major Dalit party that has strong support in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu) Thol Thirumavalavan, claimed as much in a televised debate. He said that for the 5,750 MBBS seats available for under-graduate medical college government counselling, only 37 of them were secured by students from government schools in the year 2014-2015. For the year 2015-2016 the count was even lower at 24.

This opens up a new debate over the desire of the Tamil Nadu government in aiding the poor, the marginalised and the deprived classes aspiring to study medicine in the state. If the government and the political parties are really interested in the poor and marginalised of the state who would be affected by the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) Exams, they should have focused on equipping more students from government schools to join MBBS courses. Currently the number is a dismal 25 out of the 6,600 available seats.

The demand for medical education is clearly discernible from the number of students applying for the NEET Exams from Tamil Nadu. While in 2016, 39,951 students sat for NEET UG Exam from the state; in the year 2017, the figures more than doubled to 88,478.

The nexus between the main Dravidian parties and the medical education sector and their loot of private colleges and universities are very evident from the fact that the Tamil Nadu government is allowing a free run to private-deemed universities when it comes to post-graduate courses in medicine.

While MBBS courses in deemed universities have a local domicile quota for students of the same state, the PG courses do not have even 1 per cent local quota in Tamil Nadu. It is to be noted that the Karnataka has reserved 25 per cent seats in all private medical institutions for the local students from the upcoming academic year. The government’s effort doesn’t end here, it has also subsidised fees for poor post-graduate students who secure seats through this quota; in Tamil Nadu there is no such thing.

The Tamil Nadu government, which passed a bill to exempt the state from the ambit of NEET for post-graduate medical courses, has done a major injustice to the local students by not allotting any reservations for them in the private deemed universities. The intent of the government and legislators is very clear - they are not bothered about the poor and marginalised students in the state who aspire to pursue post-graduate courses in medicine. Every single (100 per cent) post-graduate medical seat available in all the deemed universities of Tamil Nadu is practically open for students from all over India. There is a heavy possibility that all these seats are being filled by students who are not from the state. Over and above this, there is also no fee regulation with respect to post-graduate courses being offered by private deemed universities here.

Every self-financing medical college under the umbrella of MGR University had to surrender 50 per cent of post-graduate seats to the government by law. Until last year, no college surrendered the seats, and the chief minister, health minister, secretaries and every other arm of the government was aware about this. It appears that they have all been hand-in-glove with private medical colleges, selling seats and filling up their personal coffers.

When Karnataka, Pondicherry, Orissa and other states can take a share of the seats from deemed universities in the interests of the poor and marginalised students, why not Tamil Nadu?

Take the case of government of Puducherry, which has issued orders to all private medical institutions in the Union Territory, as per the central government’s notice, to establish total transparency in the medical admission process.

Why can’t the main Dravidian parties, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), who are opposing NEET, negotiate with Tamil Nadu’s deemed universities to reserve seats for local students exclusively?

The reason for this is that some of the deemed universities are owned by the leaders of these parties and others by their benefactors.

The Tamil Nadu politicians are not only doing injustice for the sake of personal financial benefits but also for vote bank and religious benefits as well.

Take the case of the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, which is bound by law to surrender 50 per cent of seats to the government. It refuses to do this year after year. And the Dravidian parties (both DMK and ADMK) for the last 15 years did not even take a stand to oppose this non-compliance in court.

By law, all the self-financing colleges had to give up 50 per cent of the post-graduate seats for government quota. However, the CMC went to court every time to exempt itself. Even after the recent amendment of the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act for Common Counselling in Medical PG admissions, Christian Medical College has defied it and called for separate counselling.

The state government of Punjab has cancelled CMC Ludhiana’s counselling citing this rule and Karnataka has cancelled COMEDK’s and CODEUNIK’s private admission processes to facilitate the common counselling as per MCI norms; but in Tamil Nadu there is no intent to enforce the law.

Take this case: Tamil Nadu is the only state in the country to have issued offline applications to conduct counselling for NEET PG. When the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, can conduct counselling online for 6,600 PG medical seats, why does Tamil Nadu want offline counselling for its 600?

Not only this, there is a rip-off even in basic charges for conducting the counselling for post-graduate medical admissions here in Tamil Nadu. While the Kerala government charges only Rs1,000 for the process, Maharashtra, Rs 4,000, Karnataka, Rs 6,000, being the maximum among all states, the Tamil Nadu government charges a whopping Rs 31,500 for admissions to the pool of seats available in government, self-financing and deemed institutions. This is nothing but a daylight robbery. Will not the poor and marginalised students struggle to pay Rs 31,500 to just take part in the counselling process?

Meanwhile, the Narendra Modi-led government which mandated the state government to conduct the admission process for all the private medical college seats, including the NRI quota is being blamed. This step ensured that there are no more seats for management quota in post-graduate medical admissions. This step at a single shot has almost cleaned up the rot in the admissions process to medical education and was hailed as a landmark decision. Taking on the medical education lobby and declaring that not a single private medical institution in India can conduct its own PG counselling, on top of regulating fee for the said courses, can definitely can be done by a strong regime like the current NDA government. The same government is now training its sights on increasing the standards of private medical colleges.

People say that NEET implementation will give rise to coaching centres in Tamil Nadu leading to commercialisation. They have a valid point. But the present environment provides for training by private schools. Unless the state government takes special measures, government school students from both rural and urban areas of Tamil Nadu will find it very difficult to get their due. It is time the government starts addressing this genuine problem.

Let us now discuss what the engineering aspirants of Tamil Nadu have to undergo. Following are the details of state-wise number of students/admissions into IITs, NITs and IIITs for the academic year 2016-17. If we combine the students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Telugu students top the list securing admission for 6,744 seats in IITs, NITs and IIITs.

Following are the number of students in IITs, NITs and IIITs from various states for the academic year 2016-17:

Rajasthan: 4,116

Uttar Pradesh: 4,120

Maharashtra: 2,300

Telangana: 3,531

Andhra Pradesh: 3,213

Madhya Pradesh: 1,757

Bihar: 2,435

Delhi (NCT): 1,246

Jharkhand: 1,325

Haryana: 1,167

West Bengal: 1,113

Tamil Nadu: 792

IITs conduct admissions through JEE Advanced Examinations while NITs and IIITs provide admissions based on the ranks in JEE Main Examination. Both the examinations give take into account the ntermediate/+2 marks of various state and central boards like the CBSE and ICSE.

Following are details of state/central board-wise admissions in IITs, NITs and IIITs for 2016-17:

CBSE: 5,856 (IITs) – 9,728 (NITs and IIITs)
-Telangana Intermediate: 904 (IITs) - 2543 (NITs and IIITs)
-Rajasthan Inter Board: 754 (IITs) - 1386 (NITs and IIITs)
-AP Intermediate: 740 (IITs) - 2258 (NITs and IIITs)
-Maharashtra Board: 728 (IITs) - 1145 (NITs and IIITs)
-ISC Board: 368 (IITs) - 589 (NITs and IIITs)
-Bihar Intermediate Board: 257 (IITs) - 1242 (NITs and IIITs)
-Madhya Pradesh Inter Board: 227 (IITs) - 489 (NITs and IIITs)
-UP Intermediate: 165 (IITs) - 910 (NITs and IIITs)
-Gujarat Board: 93 (IITs) - 448 (NITs and IIITs)
-West Bengal Board: 92 (IITs) - 379 (NITs and IIITs)
-Karnataka Board: 80 (IITs) - 339 (NITs and IIITs)

Tamil Nadu does not even figure in this list, which brings us to the conclusion that 792 students who joined IITs, NITs and IIITs from Tamil Nadu were from the CBSE syllabus.

The opposition to national level entrance exams is costing Tamil Nadu students the opportunity to get into top notch educational institutions of India. This not only translates into the deprivation of admission into colleges but also securing jobs at top companies.

Therefore, it is time the students emerged from the silly politics played by the Dravidian parties and equip themselves to face competition from the rest of the country. The state government should create avenues to bring the poor and marginalised into the mainstream by providing sufficient coaching.