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LAHORE, July 12: Coming out ‘wiser’ and ‘harsher’ from the doctors’ strike imbroglio, the Punjab government with a view to ‘turning the medics more serious to their studies and career’ has imposed a Rs500 fee for entrance test and increased the tuition fee for the students of all public sector medical colleges.

“The major reason behind this move is government’s new policy to shift some financial burden on medical students to make them realise that taking part in protests or other agitation-related activities may cause them financial loss,” said an official privy to the development requesting anonymity.

According to a health department summary based on the recommendations of Admission Board for Medical and Dental Institutions of the Punjab, that has been approved by Punjab chief minister, Rs500 fee has been imposed on each candidate appearing for the entrance test while tuition fee has been increased from Rs11,500 to Rs15,000 per year.

The government has also increased hostels’ utility charges by 10 per cent. The Board comprises principals and vice-chancellors of the public sector medical institutions.

The official said the board had been recommending increase in the tuition fee, besides imposition of fee on entrance test, for many years with a view to ease financial burden on the national exchequer. However, the government had been rejecting the proposals every time in order to facilitate students despite facing financial crisis, he claimed.

Every year over 30,000 students appear for the entrance test to compete for 3,205 MBBS and 216 BDS seats in 18 public sector medical and dental colleges of Punjab.

Earlier, no fee was charged from those appearing for entrance test while the tuition fee had also not been increased since 2008 when PML-N government took charge of the province.

The changes were introduced in the ‘admission policy for the session 2012-13’ announced by the Punjab government for the public sector medical colleges some days back.

The admitting authority shall, however, follow the order of merit of last year while allocating weightage to the marks -- matriculation 10 per cent, intermediate/equivalent, 40 per cent and entrance test 50 per cent.

Some experts are of the view that the decisions to impose entrance test fee and increase in the tuition fee were politically ‘ill-timed’ as the next general elections were not far away.

“The increase in the admission fee structure is in fact a result of recent strikes by the young doctors. The PML-N government thinks that the financial relief it had been giving to the sector was bearing no fruits,” the source said, quoting a health department official.

He, however, said despite the increase the tuition fee for public sector students was far less than those studying at private institutions charging up to Rs600,000 under the head.

Health Secretary Arif Nadeem, Special Secretary Dawood Bareach and special assistant to chief minister on health Khwaja Salman Rafique were not taking calls on their cell phones when this reporter tried to contact them for their version.