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"Give us the Additional Fees or Don't Appear for the Exam," Students Told by Himalayan University in Dehradun

On February 28, the university asked the MBBS students of the 2017 batch to submit additional cheques by March 5 to appear for their exams, set to begin on March 6.

Around 124 MBBS students at Swami Rama Himalayan University in Dehradun said on Tuesday that they were not allowed to sit for their final exams because they failed to pay a sudden fee hike imposed by the university days before the exams. The fee hike by the university stands at Rs 16 lakh for the state quota students and Rs 23 lakh for the management quota students.

Students fear that they will miss their second exam on March 11 because talks with the college officials failed on Tuesday.

On February 28, the university asked the students of the 2017 batch to submit additional cheques by March 5 to appear for their exams, set to begin on March 6.

After continuously protesting for more than 38 hours, the students informed NewsClick that the university authorities refused to budge.

On Tuesday, a meeting was held between the student representatives and college authorities. Students say that some of them agreed to pay the additional amount given that they would mention "cheque given under the circumstance of protest." However, the university has denied complying with such a format.

"We came back to the hostel and have called off the protest because some of the parents had a meeting with the University, and since the university is adamant of their part, the parents have agreed to pay the cheques," said one protesting student to NewsClick.

A press statement issued by the university to the media read otherwise and said, "The fee issue has been resolved. Students have returned to their hostels, and they have agreed to pay the deficit amount. Exams held on March 8, and March 9 will be rescheduled for March 17 and 19, respectively. If the university wins the case in court, only then will it use that cheque, else it will return it. There is no fee hike until then."

Sima (name changed for anonymity), a student of Swami Rama Himalayan Himalayan University, in an interview with NewsClick, reiterated the whole issue.

"We are from the 2017 and 2018 batches. We took admission to the college based on fees decided by the government. The fee hike happened to our colleagues, after which the court decided in their favour. But our case was still pending. Right before our final exams, the college asks us to give a cheque of Rs 23 lakh (the fees they would take as a private institution). We were supposed to appear for our final exams yesterday but couldn't because we didn't pay the amount they asked us to."

Sima is among many students who have taken admission through an education loan and finds herself in a very dire state. While she can't pay the huge amount the college is asking her to, she also can't afford to lose another six months.

In a telephonic interview with NewsClick, Priya, another protesting student, mentioned the decreasing number of protesting students at the protest site. After the students sat at the protest site for more than 38 hours, the parents started to come to the college to find a way to meet with the college.

"The parents who came to meet the dean gave in, stating that their children will lose another six months, and they, of course, don't want that. By evening, all the gathered parents started paying the cheques and asked their children to return. By then, we were left with only 50-55 students."

Talking about the condition and background of her family, she said, "I have also taken an education loan, and I don't know how am I supposed to pay the extra amount to the university. Even paying the primary fee of Rs 4 lakh is difficult for my family."

"I don't want my father taking any more on himself. Rather, I want to handle all of this alone but can't see how. They have already done a lot to make us reach this spot in life. Not just the loan, but I have seen my mother mortgage gold and things so that I can study. The last instalment that I was able to pay was only because my mother took a loan from her friend," she future said.

Sima outlined how the extra expenses along with the tuition fees add to the financial burden for students and their families.

"We get a loan only for the tuition fee, but what about the hostel and mess fee? Our parents have given that. In total, my fee goes up to Rs 27 lakh- Rs 18 lakhs given as a loan and the rest paid by my father. Above this, the college is asking us to pay extra. How inhumane is that?" questioned Sima.

"We feel betrayed by the government because back then, it was the government who decided the fee and asked us to take admission on a merit basis. Since there's no government now, no political figure is coming to stand with us," said Priya in a disappointed tone.

Rohit, a farmer's son, also shared his plight.

"I come from Bharatpur, Rajasthan. My father is a farmer, and I have two siblings, out of which one is doing his graduation, and the other is in search of a job after completing his engineering. It was a tough call for my family to send me to study MBBS. I came to Himalayan University solely on the condition that the fee would be as per the government's recommendation."

Shanu elaborated on discrepancies in the fee structure from the very beginning.

"Earlier, when I tried twice applying for an education loan, the bank said that the loan had been denied due to the college declaring the government fee structure being inadmissible. The college has always put us in difficult situations by making us pay right before the exams. My father somehow took loans from relatives to arrange the money. But now, if they ask us to pay Rs 23 lakh at once, how would we manage to do that?"

Describing how it is tough to pay more money because his brother is the sole earner in the family, Jatin highlights how he arranges the fees in the past, considering his background.

"Post our admission, we told that our fee would be decided as per the decision that comes from the court. We were still okay with it and took admission thinking things would turn out in our favour since the college is asking for a fee equivalent to the one suggested by the government. We all come from varied backgrounds; I lost my dad, it was really difficult for a single parent to even decide on making their child study medical."

Jatin further told NewsClick how the college was pressurising the students by making them pay in a very short tenure.

He narrated, "We have an exam on March 8 and five days before that, on March 2, the college asks us to make a payment of Rs 23 lakh, which is impossible for someone who comes from a not very stable financial background. We are asked to pay within 3-4 days."

Explaining how the administration was adamant about not meeting their demands, he said, "We protested, even went to the administration saying that we couldn't arrange for funds asked by the college. All we received were denials. The administration strictly said they would take the exam for three students if they had to, but would not allow us to sit for papers without a cheque in their hands."

Students were given a sample application that they had to copy and submit along with the cheque, which said they were willingly submitting the cheque, and there was no pressure on them from the college's end. The students seeing the situation they were put in at this juncture, had to adhere to the norms placed in front of them.

The writer is an Odisha-based freelance journalist. She writes on education, health and politics.

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