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LDF stages walkout over medical fee

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 2. The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) members staged a walkout from the Assembly today accusing the Government of having played into the hands of self-financing medical college managements and forced students to pay higher fees.

The Opposition, which sought adjournment of the proceedings to discuss the issue, pointed out that the students who gained admission in self-financing medical colleges in 2003 were now being asked to pay higher fees as determined by the Court or face expulsion. The managements have begun expelling students for non-payment of fees at the higher rates because of the Government's failure to put in place legal provisions that would have protected the students' interests, the Opposition members said.

Verdict awaited

Rebutting the Opposition charge, the Health Minister, K.K. Ramachandran, said the Government had done its best to peg the fees at the earlier level and even issued an order to that effect on January 15.

However, the Kerala High Court quashed the Government order. The Court also ruled that the students must pay fees at rate recommended by K.T. Thomas Committee. The matter was now before the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The Government can do anything in the matter only after the Supreme Court hands down its verdict, the Minister said.

The Government, the Minister said, was with the students. It had secured the services of eminent lawyer K.K. Venugopal to argue its case before the Supreme Court.

The hearing in the case had begun on February 1 and would continue till February 9. It would stand firm in its position that the self-financing colleges could levy only fees at Government rates in 50 per cent seats. The Government would also strive to get the Centre to enact a common law to govern admissions and fees in self-financing colleges across the country, he said.

The Opposition was not satisfied with the Minister's explanation and staged a walkout. Leading the walkout, the Leader of the Opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan, cautioned the Government against playing with the lives of students who had believed its word that two self-financing colleges would be equivalent to one Government college with 50 per cent of the seats in the former would carry only fees at Government rates.

`A ploy'

Earlier, seeking leave for the adjournment motion, P.S. Supal (CPI) said the Government order of January 15 fixing the fee payable by the 2003 batch was nothing but a ploy to fool the students.

The Government, he alleged, had issued the order knowing well that the High Court was about take a decision against its stand.

If the Government was sincere in the matter, it would have got the law enacted by the Kerala Assembly on admissions and fees in self-financing colleges included in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, he added.

M.V. Jayarajan (CPI-M), who had given notice for a submission on the subject, pointed out that even the Pariyaram Medical College, directly under the Department of Cooperation, had issued notice to the 2003 batch students to pay fees at the higher rate.

This, according to him, showed that the Government was not sincere in the matter.

The CPI leader K.P. Rajendran said there was something fishy about the Government losing all its cases in the High Court.

It had lost the online lottery case, several forest-related cases and now the self-financing college fees case. The Government's repeated loses in Court cases showed where its heart lay, he added.

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