Medical students urge home minister to initiate action against defiant private colleges that are not refunding additional feesMinister Ram Bahadur Thapa has asked for 15 days to set things right, a student leader says.
Medical college students on Saturday met with Minister for Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa and urged him to immediately act against private medical colleges that have defied successive government directives to refund the additional fees they charged the students earlier.
Though the education and home ministries have been instructing the private medical colleges to refund the money, they have not abided by the directives. The government too has not taken any action against the defiant institutions.
On September 23, following a protest from students, the government agreed to authorise the local administration to start action against medical colleges that didn’t refund their money within a month. However, nearly two weeks after the deadline elapsed, the government didn’t initiate any action against the errant medical colleges, prompting the students to start fresh protests from November 4.
The government in October last year set the fees for MBBS courses at Rs3.8 million for private colleges in Kathmandu Valley and Rs 4.24 million for those outside the Valley. However, colleges had been charging up to Rs 6 million.
“We urged Thapa to walk the talk. Issuing directives alone is not enough,” Anit Sinha, secretary of Medical Student Struggle Committee, told the Post. “We also asked him to ensure the students can attend their classes in a free and fearless environment.”
The students from National Medical College, Birgunj and Universal Medical College, Bhirahawa were manhandled by their college administrations.
No actions have been taken against the people involved in manhandling the students who were staging a peaceful protest. During the meeting with the students, Thapa assured action, if the medical colleges didn’t comply with the government’s directives within 15 days. “I am serious about your [students’] concerns and have talked to the prime minister on the matter. I assure you that the ministry will not wait more than 15 days,” Sinha quoted Thapa as saying.
Following Thapa’s assurance, the students have suspended their capital-centric protest, for now. The Education Ministry on Tuesday requested the Home Ministry to work as per its commitment made in September.
The medical college owners, however, say fee isn’t such a big issue, but it had been politicised by some people. “We have never said we won't follow the government’s directive. We will take necessary steps after receiving a letter from the Home Ministry,” Basruddin Ansari, chairman of the Association of Medical and Dental Colleges of Nepal, told the Post.
The medical students have been holding protests for the past several months demanding that their colleges comply with the fee ceiling determined by the government. Different government committees, including a parliamentary committee, found that the medical colleges have cheated the students, but no action was taken against them.
It is alleged that the government is hesitant in taking action as the owners of the colleges enjoy political patronage. For instance, Ansari is a leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) while Khuma Aryal, the owner of Gandaki Medical College, is a leader of the Nepali Congress.