FORDA, RTI activists point at corruption nexus over non-payment of stipend to PG medical students

As many as 100 postgraduate (PG) students of a private medical college in Sullia, Karnataka recently complained of non-payment of their monthly stipend by their college authorities. This has once again opened the can of worms highlighting the problems faced by the PG medical students across medical colleges in India.

Karnataka students claim their persistent requests for stipend have fallen on deaf ears of the college authorities. Earlier this week, the PG students decided to stage a protest against the college management if their stipends were not released. This is not a single case, as several private medical students across the country have complained of non-payment of stipends.

As per the National Medical Commission (NMC), PG doctors must receive Rs 45,000, Rs 50,000, and Rs 55,000 for their first, second, and third years, respectively. However, most students claimed that they received Rs 10,000, Rs 12,500, and Rs 15,000, respectively. An open appeal was made by medical students to the NMC, demanding timely payment of the entire stipend.

In 2023, an NMC survey revealed that 27% of PG students in private medical colleges did not receive stipends. As many as 4,288 PG students claimed that the compensation they received was not at par with the amount paid in government medical colleges. The stipend for PG students varies from one state to another, ranging from Rs 45,000 to Rs 95,000. Few private medical colleges give less than Rs 25,000 as a monthly stipend, while some students get the money in instalments.

The NMC has issued guidelines to all medical institutions to have uniformity in stipends for PG students. The stipends in state, central and private medical colleges in any state or union territory (UT) should be as per the stipulated guidelines. The NMC had further warned that strict action for non-compliance with the provisions of the Regulations of PGMER, 2000, would be taken against medical colleges if any complaint is received in future regarding stipend irregularities.

Speaking to Education Times, a senior NMC official says, “Stipend is mandatory for all medical students. The Commission has formed strict laws against stipend irregularities but corruption continues to rule the roost. NMC conducts physical inspections annually to check the accounts in all medical colleges.  Sometimes, the stipend allotted to medical colleges does not reach the students. Many a time, private medical colleges give a stipend to their students but take it back from them by increasing the tuition fees. If any written complaint comes to NMC, action against such medical colleges will be taken immediately. The institutes will be fined and the licence can also be cancelled.”

According to Right to Information (RTI) activist Sharanabasappa Ambesinghe, who is spearheading the movement against stipend irregularities, there is an ongoing stipend scam across the country. “Private medical colleges are cheating the students in Karnataka by not paying the stipend or paying less than the stipulated amount. There is no transparency in the system. The students want to take up the issue but cannot as the college management threatens them with academic penalisation. The NMC must make surprise visits and seek audit reports to regulate such malpractice. Every month the college deposits the stipend amount in the bank accounts of students, the record of which is usually shown to the NMC. However, it later withdraws the amount from their accounts through cheques collected from all of them in advance. And, the college has it on record to prove that the stipend amount has been paid regularly.

Students of Navodaya Medical College, Raichur and Kaja Bande Nawaz Medical College, Gulbarga have allegedly not been paid stipend. "We have started a pan-India protest to highlight this issue and regulate it," says Ambesinghe.

Dr Aviral Mathur, president, Federation of Resident Doctors' Association of India (FORDA), says, “Stipend irregularities are rampant and prevalent in private medical colleges. In government colleges, there are issues such as delayed salaries. The malpractices are most common in deemed universities and the ones that have been granted recognition recently by the NMC. These colleges prescribe a certain salary on paper only to take it back from the student sooner or later. The salary scam is a big nexus. The colleges issue blank cheques to show NMC that they are paying the stipend but later they encash it to their account or some shell company accounts.  This is also because of the rampant mushrooming of medical colleges across the country. These college authorities do such corruption to get NMC recognition in a short period. Some colleges charge exorbitant tuition fees from parents and pay their students’ stipends out of that amount. This scam is more prevalent across colleges in South India.”   

The Supreme Court in September 2023 had directed the NMC to respond to a complaint that 70% of medical colleges do not pay any stipend or are not paying the minimum set stipend to doctors who are doing MBBS internships. However, the NMC reportedly has not responded to the court with the names of private colleges not adhering to the stipend rules, according to reports.

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