The Kathmandu Post
- NAYAK PAUDEL -KATHMANDU, Despite the government fixing the fee for MBBS course at Rs4.24 million for medical schools outside the Valley, Gandaki Medical College is found to have been charging students more.
The students of the Pokhara-based college have been protesting for the last 29 days demanding action against the college administration, but the authorities concerned have been passing the buck.
According to the students, the college had charged an additional Rs850,000 from the 2015 batch, Rs1.3 million from the 2016 batch, Rs1.33 million from the 2017 batch, and Rs1.75 million from the 2018 batch of MBBS students. The college had 90 students in 2015, 108 in 2016, 90 in 2017, and 95 students in 2018.
“The college administration has been overcharging in the name of annual fees, library fees, internal exam fees and community field visit, among others,” Nitish Maharjan, a 2015-batch student told the Post. Earlier, students had approached the Kaski District Administration Office with their complaints.
According to the Tribhuvan University and its Institute of Medicine (IoM), a student can file complaints against a college, if it demands extra money, at the concerned District Administration Office. The office then can initiate necessary action after a probe. Kaski Chief District Officer Chakra Bahadur Badu, however, told the Post that the students should have informed his office when they were asked to pay the extra amount.
“Students paid the extra amount when asked by the college,” Badu said. “Students started demanding that their extra fees be returned only recently,” he added, giving an impression that there was not much for his office to do as “the money had already been paid”. “Since a committee from Tribhuvan University (TU) is looking into the matter, we can take any action only after they complete their investigation and submit a report,” said Badu.
The IoM had introduced a new rule to control the trend of demanding extra amount for admission from 2017. It required a student to submit the bank voucher for the 50 percent admission amount to the institute for confirming the admission. As per the admission procedure, a student has to pay 50 percent of the total fee during the admission and the remaining amount in instalments.
“We have receipts which prove that the college has charged extra fees from us. Since there was no response from the Kaski District Administration Office, some of us came to the Capital to knock the doors of our concerned stakeholders,” Anit Sinha, a 2016-batch student told the Post. The students have also revealed that the college charges exorbitant fees not only in MBBS but for the BDS, BMLT, BMIT, BNS, BSc Nursing and B-Pharmacy courses as well.
The Executive Council of the TU recently formed a five-member committee under Kushum Shakya to look into the matter. Previously, the council had formed a three-member committee led by Om Prasad Baral.
“The former committee was changed after students showed some reservations over the committee. The new committee will soon submit its report following which we will take action,” said Tirtha Raj Khaniya, TU vice-chancellor. Sanjit Raymajhi, a 2015-batch student, said, “The college would directly say that either we paid the asked amount or not get admitted. We had no choice since we could not change our college again.”
“Showing the bank voucher to the IoM has also not stopped the college from demanding extra amount,” said Raymajhi. According to the students, the college asks Rs228,000 extra after paying the 50 percent admission fee. “Some students were even asked Rs600,000,” said Raymajhi.
The agitated students also registered a complaint at the Education Ministry on Wednesday demanding a proper investigation and action against the college. “We have asked the university to look at the case strictly and present a report of the committee soon,” said Hari Lamsal, joint-secretary at the ministry. The agitated students have said they would be left with no option but to seek legal recourse if the government did not address their demands at the earliest.
Earlier, the students had also tried to file a case at the Central Investigation Bureau in the Capital, but the latter refused to entertain the case, citing the need for a letter from either the university or any other stakeholder requesting an investigation. According to the students, they have already submitted all the evidence of their payment to the concerned agencies.
“Since officials of the university and the ministry have promised action against the college after the committee submits its report, we are waiting for it. If there is no action against the college despite enough evidence, we will have to visit the legal side,” said Sinha. The college has also been accused of asking internship fee from students. “The college asks Rs180,000 from us,” said Sinha.
The committee led by Shakya assured the agitated students during a meeting with the students on on Thursday that there will be a transparent probe into the case. “We’ll conduct an investigation soon,” Shakya said.
The college said they had charged students only after the IoM published a notice saying that the fee ceiling set by the government is only the tuition fee and the students should contact the respective colleges for other charges. “As the notice said the college can take other charges, not defined in the notice, our administration made a list and charged the students accordingly,” said Khuma Prasad Aryal, the college chairman.
The IoM Dean Dr Jagadish Prasad Agrawal, however, said that the notice had clearly explained under what headings colleges should be charging fees. “We had stated in detail the ceiling fixed by the government covered all the charges. If students’ allegations are true, then that is not allowed,” he said.
Aryal insisted that if any extra money was collected from the students, it was as per the notice published in 2017 and that no one from other batches, including those from 2015, 2016 and 2018, had been made to pay extra.