Chief Minister PS Tamang announced on June 14, 2021 that the Directorate of Technical Education, Department of Education, Government of Sikkim in association with Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Science (SMIMS), were giving 50 aspiring students from a financially weaker background a free scholarship to study MBBS at SMIMS. The decision would create an escalation in the reserved state quota seats from existing 30 MBBS seats at SMIMS to 80 seats, in which the 50 seats would be fully sponsored by the Government of Sikkim, and the remaining 30 seats to be fully paid for. The state government entered an agreement with SMIMS with a formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for 50 fully free and 30 full payment MBBS seats for Sikkimese students for which the government would annually pay Rs. 4 crore and 50 lakhs. The seats were reserved in a merit basis for Sikkimese students who qualify the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). The National Medical Commission in November 2021 approved the 50 additional MBBS seats in SMIMS for Sikkimese students, annually.
Tamang, on the regard, said “education is one of the topmost priorities of the State Government and that they would always help students with their educational requirements.”
Further, he added, “National Medical Commission has approved 50 medical seats for free to students who want to pursue MBBS at Manipal. Previously, students had to pay 16-17 lakhs per year until now. Due to which many students couldn’t enrol themselves into medical institute, hence the state government urged medical commission to look after the matter.”
“There were many aspirants who used to come from vulnerable background who had to back out because of the course fee.
50 free seats for students can now study at zero cost and the state government could like to thank the centre for it,” he concluded.
“The Directorate of Technical Education, Department of Education, Government of Sikkim, issued nomination letters for MBBS State quota seats of Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences (SMIMS), Tadong on 31st January 2022. The Department handed over the nomination letters to the students who had been selected for the 50 free MBBS State quota seats under the sponsorship of the State Government at the conference hall of the Education Department.”- via Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim.
“In a brief address, Special Secretary, Education Department, Bhim Thatal expressed gratitude to the State government for arranging 50 fully free MBBS seats thus taking the total number of reserved seats under the state quota to 80 with the previously allotted 30 full payment MBBS seats for Sikkimese students.”
“These additional 50 seats will be free of cost for students from Sikkim who qualify the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the State Government will pay all expenses of the course, excluding the accommodation expenditure,” he added, via Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim.
ACS Education Department, GP Uppadhya further detailed, “A total of 150 seats per annum is now being offered in Sikkim Manipal University. Due to COVID-19 on September this was almost rejected because it was not possible to inspect the college, so I went to Delhi with a strategy saying it’s for native Sikkimese Students who are underprivileged and not for private seats, and finally they sent a team in November, hence sending a final approval of 50 seats.”.
The new policy saw many aspiring medical students realize their dreams of becoming a medical professional, furthermore creating an avenue where students would not have to shy away and give up those dreams because of lack of financial ataraxy. On the day of the nomination, i.e., 31st January 2022, the students along with their guardians expressed their gratitude towards the HCM and the state government for providing such a great avenue for them to pursue their aspirations. The 50 students getting the free scholarships were particularly thrilled and stated that this was a “dream come true” for them. For many who even faced troubles pursuing a degree course at local universities, this was a breath of fresh air, getting a chance to pursue their medical education dreams at an esteemed college in their state itself.
“I am really happy that I got into such a good college, and I am really grateful to the state government for giving this quota to the students who did well in the entrance and can get quality education,” says one of the nominated students.
“I am really thankful to the government for this, as there are kids who have their aspirations and ambitions, and I as a teacher try to teach the same, to have ambitions while you study,” says his parent.
“It is really fortunate for my child that he can now fulfil his ambitions and I hope that the students grab this opportunity given by the government and do well, so we can see Sikkim have its own Medical Hub,” he adds.
“It is great to be one of the students getting in, and if not for this scheme it would not be possible for my family. I also feel that my hard work for NEET paid off,” say another student.
“It was never in my capability to bear 18 -19 lakhs in annual expenses for my kid, it wasn’t even in my wildest dream to have been able to do that but because of the present government, I as a lay person can say that my kid will be studying MBBS, and it is one of our biggest dreams come true. So, I would like to thank the state government,” said another parent.
“I am really very happy and would like to express my heartfelt gratitude towards the government of Sikkim, because this was never a case in the past, it was just a dream for people like us who belong to a really poor family. My father works as a labour, and it was even hard for us to join local degree colleges, but today my childhood dream of becoming a doctor has become a reality, and it was all possible because of the HCM and the state government,” says a student.
“I want to really from the bottom of my heart thank the present government because working as Muster Roll Labour in PWD, I had no ability to bear expenses for MBBS colleges, and the government has set a vision where my son can now study to become a doctor, for which I am really thankful,” says his parent.
Under the new scholarship scheme, where even elite persons of the society would have to think twice before sending their children off to a medical college with the skyrocketed educational expenses, middle-class families, lower-middle-class families and families under the poverty line can now manage to send their children for MBBS courses. However, just like with great power comes great responsibility, with good schemes come great backlashes, and there have been evident backlashes from many people on the internet as well off it that there hadn’t been a thorough background check on the financial status of the nominated candidates.
However, after the announcement netizens refuted towards the seat allocation
“Great initiative but, with due respect, most of them are not BPL. Does the Govt. Teacher fall under BPL category? So for this NEET coaching also should be given to BPL free of cost in a very reputed institution then only We shall be able to see our real BPL category people in this list” said one
“I think govt should have given 1st priority to middle class families students after IB verification… Nava tei ho jsko ko income 10 lac above cha unnarlay pawxa.”
“GREAT DECISION. BUT NOW DAYS PEOPLE TRYING TO HIDE THEIR ACTUAL FINANCIAL STATUS; TO GET GOVT SUBSIDIES. I HOPE GOVT… WILL VERIFY DOCUMENTS BEFORE GIVING THIS OPPORTUNITY”
“Sachai garib kai nani lay poucha bhanay hamro nani lay pani NEET pass garako cha ra ushko pariwar EWS maa parcha testo lai kina sarkar lay yaad gardaina… garib lay ta officer lai bhattnu pani poudaina minister lai pani bhattnu poudai kashlay suni dinay.”
Speaking with Sikkim Chronicle, clarifying on the backlashes, Anil Raj Rai, Secretary Education Department, Government of Sikkim let Sikkim Chronicle know that a state has reservation on the basis of an agglomeration of premises, and the BPL financial background was horizontally placed within those premises.
“The department (of Education) allocates the seat as per the governments’ reservation, there are certain numbers in it, like SC, BL, ST, OBC, etc., get so-and-so seats and within that we have a horizontal reservation for BPL category. It is not that all these seats are allocated just to BPL, that will cause other eligible applicants to miss out,” clarified Rai.
As per the information obtained from the Education Department, out of the 50 seats, 9 went to students under Merits category, 8 went to Scheduled Caste category, 8 went to Bhutia Lepcha category, 8 to State OBC, 8 to Central OBC, 8 to Scheduled Tribe category, and 3 to Primitive Tribe category. Out of these 50 seats horizontal BPL categories were inserted and with a background check of the associative paperwork, all these seats were allocated.