The Central Induction Policy refers to the decision by the Punjab provincial cabinet, under which the University of Health Sciences (UHS) Punjab, unable to admit students for the past two years into private medical and dental colleges, will now conduct admissions themselves. My question is, why? The issue with the University of Health Sciences is that it has not yet developed itself as a university; it is merely an examination body. However, its Vice-Chancellor is enthusiastic about taking control of admissions for all medical and dental colleges across Punjab. What’s surprising is that even Punjab’s Health Minister, Professor Dr. Javed Akram, who is also a representative of the Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME), has expressed opposition to this policy during a meeting with the PAME delegation, calling it ‘foolish,’ and he was absolutely right.
I will discuss later the reason for Punjab’s Specialized Health Minister’s involvement, which primarily concerns the basic rule of ‘blame game.’ However, let’s first understand what the issue is with Central Induction.
It should be noted that private medical and dental colleges differ from government institutions in their financial requirements. They cover their expenses themselves, whereas government institutions receive funds through taxes, creating a fundamental difference. It raises the initial question: How can you impose a regulation on colleges if you’re not granting them any financial aid? If someone has the desire, they should try nationalization, and they will realize the implications.
The issue is that in a late September meeting, the Punjab Cabinet, without consultation, imposed the Central Induction Policy on medical and dental colleges throughout the province. Despite this, it is not within the mandate of the provincial government to change the fundamental procedures in any field; I believe this issue will be resolved in court. The regulation of medical colleges throughout Pakistan is handled by a single body, PMDC. No province has the authority to make laws or regulations over PMDC. Minister Specialized Health Punjab has confirmed that he has entrusted PMDC with this decision, and not the Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions (PAMI). However, it remains a question how Punjab can enforce this policy when it is not within their power.
To further complicate the matter, students’ views on admissions to medical and dental colleges, especially private ones, matter significantly. They want the autonomy to choose their college, especially girls who prefer colleges near their homes or in their cities. The problem does not end here; Noshirwan Barki’s unsuccessful system raises concerns when a student is admitted under the Central Induction Policy due to lack of resources and cannot afford to pay the fee. This student not only disrupts the fees but also blocks the seat of another student. The real issue here is that the Cabinet’s decision is pushing students toward colleges in Central Asia and China instead of prioritizing local colleges.
Another issue arises when matters go to court, and the first year of study is wasted in this failed system. PAMI has provided figures that during the two years when this policy was first implemented, nearly 300 seats in medical colleges remained vacant, causing significant financial losses to these colleges. The question arises: Why hinder a well-functioning system and make it difficult? Minister Health Punjab has responded that private colleges do not only take high fees but also collect donations. Now the interesting thing is that the Central Induction Policy is not related to fees or donations. According to Mian Abdul Rashid, the head of PMDC, if even one admission goes against the rules and regulations, the college can be fined up to fifteen lakh rupees per admission. I asked the Minister, can you tell me how many colleges have been fined? His answer was that someone should inform him who takes donations.”