No end in sight to Kerala standoff over fee hike

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Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 5 (IANS) With the Kerala government and the Congress-led opposition in no mood to budge from their stance on the issue of fee hike in private medical colleges, a solution eludes the ongoing standoff.

It has been a turbulent week during the current session of the Kerala Assembly. Even on Wednesday opposition protests brought the proceedings to a halt.

Even though the assembly had listed Thursday as the next working day, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan moved a resolution to cancel Thursday’s sitting and reconvene after the Puja break on October 17.

The opposition has been demanding a rollback of the “indiscriminate” fee hike in the private self-financing medical colleges, which has the approval of the Vijayan government.

Amid the uproar in the House, Vijayan stated that there is no point in blaming him for this.

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“Yesterday they (the management representatives) came and met me and I asked them if they are willing to reduce the fees. They said no. Then I asked them if they have anything else to offer, to which again they said no. And, with that the meeting ended. Please do not blame me for the failure of talks,” said Vijayan.

But Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said that the management representatives had met him and the opposition leaders before meeting Vijayan.

“They told us that they are willing to offer scholarship to students whose parents have an annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh.

“In his meeting, Vijayan was rash and angry. So, we have decided that we will not budge from the strike until the Vijayan government relents,” Chennithala told reporters after the UDF meeting.

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The UDF meeting also decided to end the indefinite fast by two of its legislators that has been going on since last week in the foyer of the assembly.

“There is no point in holding the fast when the assembly is not in session, instead we will now take to the streets to protest, and it would be held across the state,” Chennithala said.

Even though the Vijayan government has claimed that it has been able to put an end to the capitation fee regime of the private institutions, the opposition has dubbed it as a “bluff”, pointing out that capitation fee for a medical seat still ranges between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 35 lakh.

The opposition claims that while the fee in the medical colleges went up by Rs 47,000 during the five-year tenure of the previous Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, the Vijayan government has increased it by Rs 65,000 since it took office in May this year.

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