Goa CM agrees to revisit medical bond issue

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. DH file photo

Peppered by criticism from the Opposition, as well as ruling allies, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday directed the health ministry to examine ways by which medical students can legally manoeuvre around the steep hike in their bank guarantee bond of Rs 10 lakh, which they have to submit to the state government at the time of admission.

The controversy arose after the health ministry increased the bond amount from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh as per upgraded guidelines of the Medical Council of India (MCI).

State Congress president Girish Chodankar had said that the circular issued by the health ministry last week would deprive aspiring medical students from weaker sections of the society from pursuing medicine as a profession.

"Does this government want only the rich to become doctors? Which poor and lower middle class families have Rs 10 lakh spare to pay for a bank guarantee, if their children are good at studies and want to become medical professionals," Chodankar told DH.

The bank guarantee is sought by the state government, to make good for the subsidy it provides students for education in medicine, in case the student who successfully completes his or her MBBS, does not fulfill the obligation of practicing medicine in rural, far flung areas of the state for a stipulated period of time.

On Tuesday, various student organisations as well as ruling coalition ally, the Goa Forward party, also criticised the health ministry circular and urged Sawant to directed the minister concerned to withdraw the directive.

With the issue gathering steam, Sawant had to resort to a video message to the people of Goa, to say that his office was seized of the matter, adding that it was not the state government's decision to hike the fee but a new norm of the MCI.

"We will find ways to legally resolve the situation, perhaps by allowing use of cheques as a bank guarantee, instead of parents of medical students having to pay the money," Sawant said, urging political parties not to "politicise education".

Sawant also said that the government would ensure that no medical student would be deprived of a medical seat on account of the hiked bond fee.

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