Medical interns of PSM College of Dental Science in Kerala demand increase in stipend amidst fee hike

Protesting students said that after two days of strike, the administration had conceded to increasing the stipend amount to Rs 4,500 
Image from the protests | Pic: Sourced
Image from the protests | Pic: Sourced

Students of PSM College of Dental Science and Research in Thrissur, Kerala have been on strike for five days, demanding an increase in their stipends amidst a hike in their tuition and hostel fees. Students claimed that the fees was hiked without any prior intimation by the college administration.

The hostel fees that was earlier Rs 4,000 in 2016 has now been increased to Rs 7,400. Similarly, the tuition fees has also increased from Rs 2 lakh in 2016 to Rs 3.5 lakh, an intern from the college told EdexLive on the condition of anonymity. "Despite this increase in fees, our stipend has remained stagnant at Rs 4,000. We are demanding an increase of at least Rs 2,000 in the stipend," the intern said.

PSM College is affiliated to the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS). Students said that other government colleges that are affiliated to KUHS received around Rs 26,000 per month per person as stipend. But they receive a mere Rs 4,000. They also informed that a case was filed with regards to the issue in the Kerala High Court last year. The student who has now graduated from the institute had demanded that the stipend amount be increased. However, as the case is still pending in the court, students decided to protest.

In fact, another petition was filed in 2015 with regards to the aforementioned issue. Petitioners submitted that University of Kerala had taken a decision directing the college to pay stipend to them.  According to the college, they were not bound to pay the stipend since there was no provision or regulation asking self-financing colleges to pay stipend .The students undergoing house surgency are not required to render any service to the clinical service of the college. They are unaided colleges, as stated in a report by The New Indian Express.

The Kerala University submitted that non-payment of stipend to students who are studying in self-financing dental colleges amounted to violation of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) curriculum and discriminatory as students in government dental colleges were paid stipend.  The college is bound to pay the stipend and utilise their service to the advantage of the institution. The university had resolved that a stipend of Rs 7,000 be paid to the house surgeons in government dental colleges, as per the TNIE report.

Latest directive
The KUHS, in a directive on March 21, ordered principals of all affiliated self-financing medical colleges and dental colleges to “strictly comply with” the academic council decision in 2015 to “grant stipend for interns of UG and PG courses at par with the interns of government colleges”. “Further complaints, if any, received regarding non-payment of stipend to the students will be treated seriously by the university,” the circular said. Following the issuance of the directive, reports pointed out that several private medical colleges opposed the decision of the KUHS.

Protesting students said that after two days of strike, the administration had conceded to increasing the stipend amount to Rs 4,500. However, students continued protesting as the demand is seeing a further increase in the amount. "They are now refusing to talk to us. Many students are on loans to pay the hostel and tuition fees. They find it very hard to pay the increased amount without an increase in their stipend," the student said.

The All India Dental Students' Association (AIDSA) too called attention to the issue. In a letter to the principal of the institute, the association stated, "The house surgeons despite working selflessly are not getting enough stipend to fulfill even their basic needs. They are on strike and will be continuing (it) until the management meets their demands."

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