TAMIL NADU

Suspend 'steep' fee hike: medicos

Chennai April 9. Students of medicine and dentistry in the State went on a token strike today, protesting the ``inordinate hike'' in fees levied for medical courses.

They gathered in medical college premises throughout the State, urging the Government to suspend the ``steep'' fee hike — for some courses going up to Rs. 25,000 per annum — with immediate effect. House surgeons and post-graduate medical students in government college hospitals stayed away from work all day today.

"In addition to the fee hike, which is three-fold for PGs, students will now be charged even for applications and for counselling. All these amounts will be non-refundable. This will entail a tremendous burden for medical students, especially those coming from economically weaker sections of the society," according to the general secretary, All-India Medicos Federation Tamil Nadu State Council, G.R. Ravindranath.

Members of the State Council also took objection to the decision to reserve seats for NRI students and the move to grant permission to start more dental and medical colleges. The annual hike of 10 per cent should be effected in the student's stipend.

Critising the decision as motivated by profit considerations, the All-India Medicos Federation Tamil Nadu State Council members said reserving 40-50 seats for NRI students (at rates of Rs. 50 lakhs for an MBBS seat) would deprive the poor students of Tamil Nadu of their chances. This was against the principles of social justice and the reservation policy.

Representatives of the students met the Health Minister, S. Semmalai, today to present their list of demands. While the Minister agreed to consider the demands, he said additional seats would be set aside for NRI students and the move would not affect the chances of poor students in anyway.

On the other hand, students said they had given the Government time to resolve the issue by April 18. Otherwise, they would launch an indefinite strike and stop work in hospitals.