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The distance from 1994 to 2018

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This photo taken on April 1, 2020, shows medical workers disinfecting a stretcher in Wuhan Central Hospital in Wuhan, in China'

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the ordinance of the Kerala government regularizing the admission of 149 medical students of the 2016-17 batch in the private medical colleges namely Kannur Medical College, Anjarakandy and Karuna Medical College, Palakkad.

This move is a huge setback for the LDF government in the state and the college authorities. It was the Admission Supervisory Committee headed by Justice J.M. James that barred the admission to these colleges in August 2016 after the Committee found serious irregularities even in inviting applications and in preparing rank lists. But the colleges continued to function with these students. Though the colleges and the students approached the High Court, their efforts were futile. Following this, some of the students approached the Supreme Court.

The Kerala government was also impleaded in the case. The state government had issued the ordinance in October 2017 regularizing the admissions even while the case was pending in the Supreme Court. The Medical Council of India (MCI) approached the apex court challenging the ordinance. It is in this case that the Supreme Court has issued its final verdict. The CPM-led government had presented the Bill in the state assembly regularizing the admission on April 4, a day before the apex court delivered its verdict, and had passed it with the support of the UDF and BJP members. The Governor has not signed the Bill. In the backdrop of the SC verdict, whether he will sign the Bill remains to be seen.

Self-financing education has always been a highly complicated and sensitive issue in Kerala. The LDF has a significant role in making the issue emotionally charged. The Left front, the advocates of public sector, is ideologically opposed to private educational institutions. Whenever UDF has been in power, LDF has led bloody protests raising the matter of private education. It was as part of such protests that the Koothuparamba firing took place on November 25, 1994 and five DYFI workers got killed. Pushpan a CPM worker who was paralysed and bedridden after being injured in the firing then, is the party’s face of campaign. According to the map, the distance from Koothuparamba to Anjarakandy is only 13 km. But the distance traversed by the left movement in the matter of self-financing education is immeasurable. What Kerala witnessed later was a spectacle of the Left front that had once caused bloodshed in the streets and campuses raising the self-finance issue, setting up self-financing colleges on their own across the state. The unusual moves to protect the institutions which made irregularities should be seen as an extension of such actions. The SC verdict has inflicted a heavy blow to that opportunistic stance.

The left is yet to give up, at least in principle, its nostalgic position that public sector is good and private sector bad. They usually take an opportunistic stance of opposing something while in opposition, and becoming its practitioners once in power. Amidst these controversies, what we were losing was a private educational machinery with responsibility, social commitment and good quality. What they should have done is keep aside political selfishness and work for a little better private educational mechanism. That is not what happened in the cases of Karuna and Kannur medical colleges. Instead, it took a line of validating their out of the way and pure commerce-driven moves. It was still stranger that the Opposition UDF and BJP too supported it. The pro-government school argues that such a legislation was made in view of the hardship of the students who had paid huge amounts for obtaining admission and have been studying for the course for nearly three years. True, the case of students does cause concern. But it is not by validating the wrongful act of two institutions that those students are to be saved. What is necessary is a government initiative with steps to enable students receiving sufficient compensation from the college management. The lesson imparted to the left government by all these setbacks in the matter of self-financing colleges is that when extreme steps are taken for mere political gains, they will later boomerang. In the process, the populace got an opportunity to realise that in the matter of pampering those trading in education, both the left and right forces are alike.

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