Punjab finds itself in a messy situation with a knee-jerk decision regarding admissions to the highly sought-after MBBS/BDS seats in its colleges. At the same time, it leaves the aspiring candidates in a state of shock and uncertainty at the eleventh hour, with the NEET results out and admissions round the corner. The government was confronted with, on the one hand, its own notification of 2016 which said from the 2019-20 session, students who did their classes X, XI and XII from Punjab schools would be qualified to join the medical colleges in the state (it followed a High Court ruling in relation to this matter). To meet this criterion, many parents stationed outside the state had got their wards desirous of studying medicine in Punjab in Class X in 2016. On the other hand, clamour from local parents and students to make Punjab domicile mandatory for admission to the colleges acquired momentum. This argument gained currency in view of such an eligibility condition prevailing in the neighbouring and other states. They felt that it put the state’s children at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the outsiders who were thus entitled to compete in both Punjab and their state of domicile.
But even as the subject became emotive as at stake were coveted seats in this highly competitive arena, the Punjab Medical Education Department’s last-minute notification setting aside its rule and declaring that only Punjab domicile students would be eligible for the MBBS/BDS seats reeks of arbitrariness and insensitivity to a group of students following a certain route of education as per the existing rules. It is harmful to their interests.
The just and correct course of action should have been to implement its new criterion of domicile only after three years so that the current batches of children who have joined Class X in Punjab schools get the window of qualification and do not suffer from random and frequent changes in policy.