Published: 02nd November 2022
PGIMS Rohtak medical students are protesting against bond policy fee. Here's why
Today, the students of PGIMS Rohtak carried out a peace march in their college as an awareness campaign
MBBS students from Haryana's medical colleges are upset with the state government's bond policy. They have initiated a protest in opposition to it, which is still continuing at PGIMS (Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences) Rohtak.
Pankaj Bitthu, a senior student from PGIMS, studying in the pre-final year, states that if nothing is done to amend the policy soon, the MBBS doctors will launch a complete agitation and may resort to boycotting their duties at any moment. Dr Karan Juneja, Chairman of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Junior Doctors' Network, Haryana, informed that the policy was gazetted in the year 2020 and dispute over it has arisen since.
The disputed policy
"It was introduced without any prior intimation in November 2020, when the NEET UG Counselling was in process, by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) Haryana," said Pankaj. According to the new policy, the MBBS doctors were required to pay an amount of Rs 40 lakh as a bond to the state government when they opted for admission to a government college.
"Though it was introduced two years ago, due to COVID-19, the students had not paid the amount. And now the colleges are asking the students to pay up, both fresh admissions as well as the students of the 2020 and 2021 batches. A couple of notices have already been issued to the older students in this regard," stated Pankaj.
As per the clauses mentioned in the bond, students had to pay Rs 10 lakh every year, starting from the first year till the fourth year annually at the time of admission and readmission, along with the tuition fees, the agitating doctors informed. "The government allowed the students to pay this amount in two ways: they could pay it on their own or the government facilitated a loan for them. Since it is a huge amount, most of the students chose the option of loans," claims Pankaj.
As per the policy, he further informed that the doctors were required to serve in various medical establishments in Haryana for a period of seven years after they completed their MBBS degrees. "Only after the successful completion of this period, the government would repay the loans," he informed. However, the students stated that strangely, the policy does not guarantee them jobs.
The bones of contention
1. Lack of jobs
"Clause 9 of the policy doesn't make it mandatory for the state government to provide employment to MBBS graduates. With this uncertainty, students' future has been put at risk," said Akshat Mittal, a student from the 2020 batch at PGIMS. And on top of this, the students claim that there are not enough jobs in the state.
"The Haryana Civil Medical Services cadre is already full. The last advertisement for medical job posts was made in the year 2020. About 400 posts were vacant, compared to an excess number of applicants," said Pankaj. The next batch of jobs was advertised this year. "If we look at the data from Haryana Civil Medical Services Exam conducted on April 10, 2022, 7424 aspirants appeared to fill the 962 vacant posts," added Akshat.
In both instances, the students inform that the posts were filled immediately, with many left hanging on the waiting lists. "The government's claim of not having enough doctors in the state is clearly false as we see around eight times more aspirants than the seats available," Akshat stated.
It may be noted that the students of the 2020 and 2021 batches were made to sign an affidavit which stated that they would pay the amount eventually, which would only be repaid by the government if they worked a job, as per the mandate of the policy. At the time, students had raised the issue that there were not enough jobs to accommodate all.
"A line was then added to the affidavit which said that in case a student failed to obtain a job despite his best efforts, the government MAY step in," Pankaj said. "There is no clarity on what will happen if the students do not get a job," he added. And there will be no such affidavit for students who joined in 2022. "They have to pay directly," the senior student stated further.
All in all, the students are also irritated about the fact that the government introduced the bond policy for service purposes so that students do not leave Haryana after MBBS, but does not guarantee jobs. And even before a student has secured employment, right before beginning college, they are being asked for money on no valid grounds. "This is an upfront collection of money in the name of a bond," claimed Hardik, another student from the 2020 batch.
2. High fees lead to loss of merit
The protesting students informed that they are being asked to pay the bond amount of Rs 10 lakh every year along with the tuition fees which sum up to Rs 52,000-Rs 80,000. "This means that in total, a student has to pay about Rs 76 lakh in four years," said Pankaj.
"These are government colleges and meritorious students from middle-class backgrounds opt for admissions here. If they are asked to pay such a huge amount from the very beginning, how will they do it?" questioned Hardik. Akash Mehra, also a senior student in the pre-final year, added that even the students from the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) were being asked to pay.
"Many students take admission by taking a student loan as it is, and even if they get a job after MBBS, they earn about Rs 48,000 per month. Including an 8 per cent loan interest rate and other expenses, it is very difficult for a student to pay the amount back," Akash said further.
Due to these issues, meritorious students are opting for admission to semi-government colleges. "PGIMS is the top government college in Haryana. But the number of meritorious students has been constantly decreasing. This year only three students have taken admission here," claimed Akash.
Pankaj added that he had previously met Haryana Chief Minister Khattar in this regard and discussed the issue. "But no amendments have been made in the policy," he stated.
3. A very long period
"Seven years is too long a period to serve. No other state government has such a long bond period," said Pankaj. Moreover, the students said that they have no clarity on whether they will be able to opt for higher education like PG courses during this period. "It has been two years, and yet, the government has to clear the air on this," said Hardik.
The protests of the present
On November 1, the students of the concerned MBBS batches (2022, 2021 and 2020, belonging to the first, second and third years) staged a peaceful protest march from the Director's office inside PGIMS to the Medical Mode, a point outside the college's main gate. Akash informed that the protest took place between 11 am and 1:30 pm.
Later, the Director called the students for a meeting. "We have got permission from the Director to continue our protest in a peaceful manner," said Hardik. "The motive of today's protest was to create awareness about the policy. Tomorrow (November 2) we will be meeting the Vice-Chancellor," he added.
The students have already generated a signature campaign on the policy and gathered about 500 signatures. They demand that either the policy be abolished, or at least, suitable changes should be made to them. Organisations like IMA Haryana are supporting the students in their demand. It may be noted that a case was filed against this policy earlier in the State High Court by students, doctors and parents, but it is pending.
Protests are also going on in other government colleges of Haryana as well, which are Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College (SHKM), Gehbar; Kalpana Chawla Government Medical College (KCGMC), Karnal; Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya (BPS), Khanpur and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government Medical College, Faridabad.
Multiple attempts were made to reach out to the officials at PGIMS for a comment on the bond policy, but contact could not be established. This report will be updated if and when a response is received from the authorities.