Nepali students at Indian medical colleges are deprived of stipends for yearsTheir efforts to seek a political solution to the matter also has failed to yield results
Nepali students pursuing medical degrees at Indian government medical colleges have not received their stipends for years. Despite international practice of providing medical students with monthly stipends, over 150 students studying in New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh and Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Pondicherry have not been paid, according to students.
The student doctors had even filed a case at the Delhi High Court in 2011, which ruled in their favour two years later. But AIIMS challenged the ruling and took the matter to a double judge bench. As the case is pending, AIIMS and other medical colleges have refused to pay the students.
"We don't know where the implementation process has reached. We have taken up the issue with all concerned agencies in Nepal and India,” said Dr Sagar Poudel, who represents the medical students who have not received their stipends.
The medical students had earlier sought a political solution as well. Last year, just before Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to New Delhi, they had submitted a memorandum to draw the attention of the prime minister and Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali to their plight.
Foreign ministry sources said Prime Minister Oli had even discussed the issue with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. But there has been no progress, said Poudel.
Oli had also briefed Parliament on his discussion about the Nepali students’ stipend during a bilateral meeting with Modi during the latter’s visit to Kathmandu.
Around a year ago, after a prime minister-level decision, India’s Ministry for External Affairs had written to all three colleges to implement the decision to pay stipends to Nepali students.
The PGIMER then asked students to provide them with their bank account details. JIPMER, on the other hand, had informed the students about creating a file in their accounts department. But AIIMS in New Delhi did not provide any information, according to the students. A standing committee meeting of AIIMS rejected the health ministry's direction.
Following AIIMS rejection, other colleges also ignored the directive from the ministry.
Nepali Ambassador to India Nilambar Acharya said he had repeatedly raised this issue with the Indian side.
"The Indian side is positive about providing students with stipends. But I am surprised why the decision has not been implemented," said Acharya.
If the direction is implemented, Nepali students would receive around IRs 100,000 monthly in stipends. But as they are deprived of it, they are forced to ask for expenses from their homes. "The decision to provide stipends has been taken but it has not been implemented. We feel we are being cheated," said Suman Rastogi, who is pursuing MD at JIPMER.
Nepali students, however, say they have not given up hope. They are hoping the Nepali side would discuss this issue during the fifth meeting of the Joint Commission at the foreign minister level due to be held in Kathmandu later this month. They have already submitted a letter to Foreign Minister Gyawali and Foreign Secretary Shankar Bairagi.
"The minister and secretary have assured that they would discuss the issue during the meeting," said Dr Poudel.
Despite failing to receive stipends, Nepali students have continued to provide medical services. During a strike by resident doctors and students from AIIMS, unpaid Nepali doctors were providing services at the emergency, out-patient clinics and even the wards. The service provided by Nepali students was also lauded by Indian newspapers.