Published: 25th January 2021
Despite hostels, classes getting shut, FIR threats, Rajah Muthiah Medical College students refuse to call off protest
One reason the students are saying the administration’s decision to close down the hostels is unfair is because they have already paid one year’s hostel fees
For the last 48 days, students of Rajah Muthiah Medical College, Chidambaram, Cuddalore district, have been protesting against the exorbitant fees charged by the administration. The College affiliated to Annamalai University became a government university in 2013 but the students argue that they are being charged the same fees as a private institute. Three days ago, the College shut down its campus due to the protests but the students have remained steadfast.
Students say that after the College became a government institute, they expected that the fees would be the same as a regular government college. But students claim that they are being charged fees that are demanded in private colleges, “It isn’t even that they are charging such high fees, they hike the fees every year too. While a government medical college charges about Rs 13,600 for MBBS and Rs 30,000 for PG course, RMMC is charging about Rs 5.5 lakh and Rs 9.6 lakh for PG.
This is not the first time that the students are protesting, in 2017, the students went on a 40 day protest as well. But eventually gave up. This time though, the students are determined to carry on till the government intervenes in the matter. The administration has been warning the students to call off the protest. About a month ago, Annamalai University issued a notice threatening action against students who were protesting. Then on January 22, the administration issued a notice stating it was shutting down the campus due to the protestors. The hostels, mess, power and water supply was also shut down for the students. The decision enraged the students, who complained that they were being deprived of basic human rights.
“They shut down water supply and power. We couldn’t even access the bathrooms. We had no food to eat. If the administration cared so much about us, why would they take away basic amenities?” a student questioned. However, even cutting off these amenities didn’t deter the students. When shutting the hostels didn’t work, the University and College issued a warning to the parents of the students. The parents were strictly asked to get their children to go back home, failing which FIRs would be lodged in their names which would ‘affect their careers’. The students called the move ‘unjustified’. “They want to threaten our careers because we are just exercising our democratic right to protest.” the students said.
Since the students have refused to move from the campus, the administration has restored water and power, “We wrote to the National Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Rights Commission because it is very difficult for the women to access bathrooms. Something as basic as that was being deprived to us.” The students had carried on their protest into the night, flashing their mobile phone flashlights and raising slogans. The students have been managing food on their own, so far. “We have all been pitching in and cooking by ourselves outside. It’s like home cooking only. We take turns,” the student said. Currently, all the 1300 students have been protesting, a student representative said, “We are doing it in rotations. In the morning about 500 students come, and the next 500 in the evening.”
“The protest has been completely peaceful, so the administration threatening our parents about filing FIRs in our names is outrageous. We’ve not done anything wrong, our demand is for the government to intervene and ensure we are being charged like any other government medical college,” the students said. In September 2020, students and parents of Government Erode Medical College were also protesting for similar reasons, they were being charged private college fees despite being acquired by the government. “In that case at least, 30 per cent of the seats were allocated to children of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation employees. Here, 100 per cent of the seats are all government quota seats. So it is unfair for us to be charged such high fees,” the students argue.
Another reason the students are saying the administration’s decision to close down the hostels is unfair is because they have already paid one year’s hostel fees. “They technically can’t kick us out like this since we’ve already paid for the year. The shut down is also unfair to other students on the campus like nursing students and CRRI doctors. They are not even part of the protests but were forced out,” the students argued.
Students say more than anything, they are pained by the reaction of the administration and the ignorance of the government. “Not even the sub-collector has visited our campus to hear us out. There has been no intervention by the government even though we’ve been protesting for so long,” the protestors said. The administration has argued its stand by claiming that students are aware of the fees before they join the campus, “The fees have been fixed by Annamalai University but we are not told exactly how much that is. The court has said that the University should not be fixing the fees but that is what is happening.”
Since a similar protest had already taken place in 2017 and had failed, we asked the students why they think things would be different this time, “We’ve stayed put despite the campus getting shut down. We are not moving till the government intervenes in the after. We’ve made arrangements to stay here till the issue is resolved, so we are not going anywhere.”