The curtain appears to have come down on this year's protracted admission tussle in the self-financing professional education sector with the government inking an agreement with the private self-financing dental college managements regarding the method of admission and fees.

Health Minister Adoor Prakash told a news conference here on Wednesday that under the agreement reached with the managements at a meeting held in the presence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the managements would charge the same fees as last year, but would be allowed to conduct an entrance examination to select students from the outside the list published by the Commissioner for Entrance Examinations (CEE). They would, however, be allowed to pick up students from their own list only if no student from the Commissioner's list was available, the Minister said.

The dental managements' entrance examination would be conducted on September 23. The managements would be allowed to dip into their own list only after September 25, which had been fixed as the cut-off date for picking up students from the general entrance merit list prepared by the CEE. The managements were being allowed to conduct their own examination as the one that they had conducted earlier had not been approved by the P. A. Mohammed Committee. The examination would be conducted by an agency to be nominated by the government, under close supervision, he added.

The fees applicable under various categories would be as follows — Rs.1.10 lakh for merit quota students; Rs.23,000 for students from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families; Rs.45,000 for students from Socially and Economically Backward Classes (SEBCs); Rs.3.40 lakh for students gaining admission in the management quota; and Rs.4 lakh in the case of students belonging to the non-resident Indians' (NRI) quota. The proportion of seats for each category would be on the same lines as those applicable to MBBS course, Mr. Prakash said.

Replying to questions about the contention of the Nair Service Society (NSS) that the new admission norms had brought down the number of seats in the merit quota, the Health Minister admitted that while there was some merit in the contention, the backward and minority community managements too had a point.

Responding to another question, he said the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) Director had been asked to submit a report on the circumstances that led to the strike by ‘108' ambulance drivers in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. On the drivers' demand for better pay, he said the government had nothing to do with the salaries and service conditions of the drivers as the ambulance service was being operated by an agency chosen through a tender procedure. The government would not allow the ambulance service to be affected under any circumstance, the Minister said.