Bengaluru: For the last one week, the opposition Congress and the ruling Left Front government in Kerala are locked in a tussle over admission to private medical colleges. The government has been unable to break the ice with the opposition, which wants it to reassess an agreement made last month that aided private colleges to hike fees, leading to a week-long adjournment of the House, black flag protests, hunger strikes and a war of words.

There is no end in sight to the face-off even as the health conditions of the two MLAs who are on hunger strike worsen. The Speaker met the leaders of the House for the sixth time in a week on Monday, but the meeting ended inconclusively, according to senior MLAs whom Mint spoke to over phone. The imbroglio has put the career of thousands of medical students in Kerala at stake. The allotment process to medical education has ended and some colleges have even started their classes.

A fresh hope has sparked among those who could not secure admissions despite obtaining high marks in entrance tests, but an air of uncertainty has gripped those who have already secured admissions thanks to their families’ deep pockets, according to analysts.

What does the opposition want?

According to senior Congress MLAs, the opposition’s major demands are three.

As per the pact mentioned earlier, the annual fee in private medical colleges was revised across slabs of seats, including those reserved for students from financially weaker sections, or what’s generally called merit seats. The opposition wants the government to roll-back the hike, at least in institutions such as Pariyaram Medical College, which would be taken over by the government as per an earlier announcement.

So far, both the government and private medical colleges have outrightly rejected reassessing the fee hike.

Speaking in the House, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday reiterated that the government cannot roll-back the fee hike as admissions to these colleges are over and some of them have even begun classes.

Even in Periyaram, where he says the takeover procedures have not yet been completed, the government is unable to reduce the fees. On the allegations regarding capitation fee, he said the government is willing to investigate such complaints by any competent authority as suggested by the opposition.

P. Krishnadas, an office-bearer of Self-financing Medical Management Association, a representative body of private colleges, said over phone that they will not agree to a roll- back of the fee hike. It will lead to administrative and legal hurdles, hurting the career of the students, as the allotment for this year has already been completed, he said.

However, as per another representative of the same association, who did not want to be quoted, the colleges may agree for some leeway in the form of providing scholarships, simply to reduce the increased burden on the students and to get away with the possibility of having heightened scrutiny over admissions by the politicians in future because of the protests.

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