NAPM expresses full solidarity with the demands of the agitating students of Rajah Muthiah Medical College 

Govt is responsible both for affordable higher education and accessible, timely, quality healthcare 

4th Feb, 2021: NAPM stands in solidarity with the protesting students at Rajah Muthiah Medical College (RMMCH), Cuddalore who have been braving all odds to challenge the exorbitant fees charged by the medical institute affiliated to Annamalai University. The protest, which has been in full spate for over 60 days now, is a testament to their conviction. Until the 43rd day of the protests, the students tried to ensure that their demand for justice did not affect patient care services. When they received no response from the authorities they reportedly stopped providing out-patient care services for a week, after informing the authorities. 

In its poor handling of the protest, RMMCH betrayed an atrocious disregard for the well-being of its own students, which is its foremost responsibility as an educational institution. Nor is it befitting to an institute the size of Annamalai University, the affiliating university, to behave in such a reprehensible fashion for years and direct students to pay Rs 5.6 lakh a year for an MBBS course whereas a government college only charges Rs 13,600/- for the same. 

The overcharging, for MBBS as well as other courses, students claim, continued to take place in spite of the Annamalai University receiving close to half of the amount allocated as part of the state’s annual higher education budget from 2013 to 2020. Reports indicate that the students identify this as an instance of the University attempting to use their fees to recover from alleged financial irregularities. In this regard, the students state that the aim of the protest is not just to challenge the exorbitant fees that they are forced to pay. They demand ensuring appropriate use of the sum allocated to the college since 2013, for infrastructure development which would also contribute to the quality of patient care services catering to patients from hundreds of villages in Cuddalore. 

The excessive action by the RMMCH of cutting off access to hostels, water, mess services and electricity reflect an institute scared of its own students questioning the mal-administration, and which, therefore, stifles their legitimate demands. We condemn this gross abuse of authority in attempting to bully students into calling off their protest. We urge the state government to immediately roll back the prohibitive fee structure and dialogue with the protesting students, instead of resorting to high-handed measures like cutting off their water and electrical supply. 

The move by the state government to bring the college under the Health and Family Welfare Department, only after the students had to resort to interrupting out-patient care services, is clearly insufficient. A separate Government Order must be released at the earliest once the approval is secured from the state finance department, mentioning the timeline within which the link between the college and the Health and Family Welfare Department and MGR University will be established. The TN govt must also start the process of meeting the remaining demands of the picketing students as soon as possible. The government must ensure that the students’ academic activities are not affected. It must assure the students that both fees and stipends will be fixed on par with other government medical institutes, as the students demand.

NAPM also demands that the government set up a committee to investigate how the situation was allowed to fester for years, and why the institute continued to charge exorbitant fees with inadequate oversight or accountability. A thorough audit must be conducted into the accounts of Annamalai University and Rajah Muthiah Medical College as well. This calls for a broader public audit of the state of higher education in Tamil Nadu. 

NAPM continues to offer its steadfast support to students picketing outside the college premises and urges the government to resolve the situation amicably as soon as possible, by offering an acceptable solution to the students. 

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