Uproarious scenes were witnessed in the Kerala assembly on the opening day of its session with the Congress-led UDF opposition protesting alleged irregularities in the LDF government’s agreement with private medical colleges on admissions and fees.
Seeking to move an adjournment motion on the issue, the opposition members squatted in the Well of the House and raised slogans. As the uproar continued despite his repeated pleas asking the opposition members to go back to their seats, Speaker P Sreerama krishnan adjourned the House for about an hour.
When the proceedings resumed, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed that Health Minister K K Shylaja would hold talks with the leaders of Youth Congress, whose hunger strike entered seventh day in front of the state Secretariat demanding scrapping of the agreement.
He also warned of stringent action against managements if any of them tried to sabotage the admission of students from the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) merit list.
Trouble started when the opposition sought a discussion on the adjournment motion stating that the new agreement with the private self-financing medical colleges had caused an exorbitant increase in the fees, posing difficulties to ordinary students.
The UDF members stood in front of the Speaker’s dais raising slogans and squatted in the Well after he rejected their demand for discussion.
In her reply to the notice for adjournment motion, Shylaja said the agreement was “very good” and students and their parents were happy with it.
“There is no fault in fixing the fees structure under the agreement. Meritorious students have benefited from it. The agreement also helped the Below Poverty Line students get 120 more merit seats,” she said.
At one point, the minister’s remarks that children of some opposition members were studying in private medical colleges without remitting mandatory fees triggered a heated exchange of words between opposition and ruling bench members.
Congress leader and former Health Minister V S Sivakumar claimed that the agreement had caused more than 30 per cent increase in the fees dashing the hopes of ordinary students.
Levelling allegations of graft in the agreement, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the government had “reserved” the medical education sector for upper class people through it.
The members of Kerala Congress (M), who sat as a separate bloc after snapping its three decade-old ties with UDF, staged a walk-out over the issue.