Annamalai University, a public university in Tamil Nadu, has indefinitely closed its medical and dental college in Cuddalore for all students except for the freshers batch amidst growing protests.
The student protest, demanding the university and the government to fix the fees at par with other government medical and dental colleges, entered its 15th day on April 25.
The university was taken over by the government of Tamil Nadu in 2013 but has announced that the government subsidised fee will only be applicable for students admitted from 2021-22 onwards.
The university has decided to shut down the college and hostel indefinitely as the students were unrelenting in their protest. The students have demanded the government intervene in the process of fixing the fees and reopening the college.
The university and the government have been accused of going back on their promise of reducing the fee, and instead, acting against the dissenting students by closing the college and hostel.
‘ENSURE REDUCTION OF FEE’
A circular was issued by the office of the registrar informing the students of the indefinite closure of the college and hostel on April 25. The students were asked to vacate the university and hostel premises by 4 pm, much to their dismay.
The university has fixed Rs 4 lakh per annum and Rs 2.5 lakh per annum as fees for self-financing medical and dental courses. The fees for the same courses in other government colleges are Rs 13, 610 and Rs 11,610, respectively.
“After the university was taken over by the government in 2013, it was promised that the students will have to pay the fee fixed for government colleges. However, despite several years, the students are asked to pay the fee for self-financing courses,” a protesting student said.
A government order (GO) 45 was issued in February 2021, after protests from students, regulating the fee for the medical and dental courses in Government Medical College, Cuddalore. However, the order was overturned by GO 204 fixing the self-financing fee shortly.
The Cuddalore students point to the precedence set by the take over of a medical college by the state transport corporations which resulted in a reduction of fees for those students.
“In the Government Erode Medical college, which was earlier IRT Medical College, Perundurai, the fees for students was reduced in 2021. The students who paid self-financing college fees during admission are now paying the fees prescribed for government colleges. Only the students of Cuddalore medical college are forced to pay higher fees,” a student said, requesting anonymity.
Students during the 10th day of the protest
Tamil Nadu Medical College Students Association (TNMSA) has demanded the government to implement fees at par with other government medical colleges to end the misery of the protesting students.
‘DMK CHANGING STAND AFTER ASSUMING POWER’
The students of the Cuddalore college obtained a court ruling to implement GO 45, which regulated the fees, and pinned their hopes on the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government on implementing it.
The DMK leadership, while in opposition, had supported the protest of the students in January 2021 and accused the then ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government of suppressing the voices of students by closing the college and hostel.
The students have accused the DMK of now changing its earlier position on the issue and following the process which it opposed earlier. Further, the government rejected the demands of the students citing a financial loss of Rs 300 crores in the event of reducing the fees. The state Health Minister Ma Subramanian in the assembly said, “The fees has been reduced from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. A total reduction will result in a loss of Rs 300 crore.”
The TNMSA rejected the claim of financial loss cited by the government and demanded to consider education as an essential service to society. “After taking over the college in 2013, the government is ready to reduce the fees of the 2021-22 batch onwards. The existing students in other batches are paying a hefty fee,” TNMSA said in a statement.