Published: 29th January 2021
Long overdue: TN govt decision to move RMMC under Health Department doesn’t bring much cheer to students
The students have spent the last 50 days demanding that their college charge the same fees as a government college
When the Tamil Nadu government announced that it had decided to bring the Rajah Muthiah Medical College under the Health and Family Welfare Department, it hoped it had done enough to encourage students to call off the protests. However, the students are brushing away the move and say that it will not deter them from their protest because this move was long overdue and it still doesn’t assure them that all their demands will be met.
The students of Rajah Muthiah Medical College are on their 51st day of protest. The students have spent the last 50 days demanding that their college charge the same fees as a government college because it had been named a government college in 2013. Despite this, they were being charged 30 times the fees of a student studying at a government college. Students had also complained that their fees had been hiked every year, so much so that they were paying more than self-financed colleges too. After a fruitless protest in 2017, the students launched a new protest last month. On Thursday, medical students across the state also came out of their classrooms to show their solidarity with the RMMCH students.
Finally, on the evening of January 28, the government announced that RMMCH will be brought under the Health and Family Welfare Department and will be affiliated to Dr MGR Medical University.
In doing so, the government had fulfilled one of the students’ demands. But it wasn’t enough to convince the students to call off their protests, “We welcome the Government Order on the shifting of the college to the Health Department. However, this doesn’t guarantee that our fees will be reduced. We’ve been told that the new fee structure will be issued in a separate GO. But till that comes, there is no way we will be calling off this protest,” students said. The government said that the fee structure, filling up of seats, status of existing staff members and changing the affiliation to Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University will be done after obtaining concurrence from the state finance department.
The students say that this move is only the first step and something that should have been done last February. So doing it now, doesn’t have a major impact on their struggle. Dr GR Ravindranath, the President of the Doctors Association for Social Equality pointed out that the TN Chief Minister has announced that the college would shift to the Dr MGR Medical University much earlier, “He told us it was a Cuddalore college and that it would therefore function as a government college. After that, last month Annamalai University's registrar sent a letter to the government seeking for the college to be brought under the Health and Family Welfare Department. And yesterday, the government made the announcement. So this step isn’t enough to assure the students that they will be charged the same amount of fees as government college students.”
Another reason why the students and Ravindranath are not too kicked about the GO is because it doesn’t mention the time in which the link between the college and the Health and Family Welfare Department and MGR University will happen. “We are disappointed that the GO doesn’t make this clear even though this order is coming seven months late. It took so long for even this to happen because of this protest we’ve been doing,” the Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association said.
The students are demanding that the government give them a proper time frame as to when the affiliation will be done and assure them that they will be charged the same as government college students. “We will not fall for this move. It isn’t enough. They have to tell us that these unfair fee demands will stop. They cannot try to cheat us by doing something so basic,” the students said. Ravindranath also agreed, “If the government thinks that because of this the students will call off the protests, they are greatly mistaken.”
And so the stir continues, “We are nowhere close to calling off this protest till we know for sure that we will succeed in our endeavour,” the students added.