Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

As financing for medical education in India has become a herculean task for most aspirants over the years, it is no surprise how a considerable number of students have often chosen to pursue their studies at any cost in foreign countries where higher education is exceedingly cheaper. 

Recently, as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict forces thousands of such medical students to disrupt their study midway and return home only to stare at an uncertain future, the situation has brought focus back on the debates on who is responsible for the mess - is it the sky-high medical fees, private players or the government?

Amid such a scenario, the hike of admission fees in medical colleges by the Odisha government has baffled not only students but the entire academic community. 

On one hand, while expressing concerns over the disruption in studies of the medical students, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday has sought urgent intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with National Medical Commission (NMC) and the concerned ministries to enable and facilitate continuation of studies in medical colleges in India as the crisis will continue until restoration of normalcy.

On the other hand, Odisha government has hiked the admission fees by 28% for MBBS course and 49% for super specialty course. The Odisha Joint Entrance Exam (OJEE) office has released an advertisement announcing the fee hike. 

As per the revised admission fee structure, while the fees for admissions into MBBS course in government medical colleges was earlier Rs 29, 694, it will be Rs 37, 950 from the current academic year. Similarly, for admission into super specialty course, candidates have to pay Rs 67, 800 instead of Rs 45, 5000. Moreover, the hostel fee for MBBS and BDS candidates has been revised to Rs 14, 000 from Rs 10, 000. 

Meanwhile, the step by the Odisha government to increase the admission fees has sparked anger among medical aspirants as well as their parents. 

"Such a decision of Odisha government is not acceptable. Several medical students will suffer due to the move," said Hareram Behera, a medical student.

Another medical education aspirant, Subham Das laments, "The government should once again analyze this decision as there are several aspirants who can't afford to pay such revised amount."

"Amid the Covid crisis, many parents are facing challenges to pay the fees. How can they afford to pay more? This decision will adversely affect the admission in private medical colleges which may reach around a crore. The government needs to give a second thought on the decision," rued a parent named Ajit Behera.

The Medical Students' Union has also raised objection against the government's decision. As per the Union, several meritorious aspirants with poor financial background won't be able to pursue their dream of becoming medical professionals following the revisions in admission fees. 

While President of VIMSAR Student Union, Dibyadarshan Tripathy has urged the government to withdraw the decision of admission fee hike, the General Secretary of Odisha Medical Services Association (OMSA), Dr Biswajit Samal said, "Currently, the price of every essential item is on rise. Amid this, if the government hikes the admission fees, it will snowball several issues. Instead of reducing admission fees to facilitate medical education to more students who would otherwise travel to countries like Ukraine to study, the government is raising the fee which is extremely unfortunate. 

However, State Health Minister Naba Kishore Das said, "The government is recommended for fee hike at regular intervals. I am unaware of the percentage hike of fee in details. Let me examine the issue and I will give a proposal to my government and discuss over the matter to find an amicable solution."