Touts promising medical admissions proliferate, make crores | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Touts promising medical admissions proliferate, make crores

Oct 17, 2022 12:06 AM IST

Patil is one of eight students who were cheated of ₹ 2.5 crore collectively by a firm called Medico HelpDesk which promised admission through the management quota of a medical institute. Earlier this month, the case was transferred to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Navi Mumbai

Mumbai: Eighteen-year-old S Patil has been spending sleepless nights since April this year ever since he discovered that his admission via the management quota of a famous deemed-to-be medical institute in Maharashtra was not valid. Patil had paid 55 lakh to an agent only to find later that he had been duped by the agency.

Touts promising medical admissions proliferate, make crores
Touts promising medical admissions proliferate, make crores

Patil is one of eight students who were cheated of 2.5 crore collectively by a firm called Medico HelpDesk which promised admission through the management quota of a medical institute. Earlier this month, the case was transferred to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Navi Mumbai.

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“My son had scored low marks in his Class 12 exams but his score in the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) was decent. However, admissions for the 2021-22 batch were delayed and despite his good marks, seats in private and government medical colleges were impossible to get. Therefore, we decided to seek the help of admission agents, who assured us of a seat in the management quota of a good medical college,” said Patil’s father.

The admission agent assured Patil and at least seven other students of a seat in a medical college for 90 lakh in Maharashtra and 95 lakh in Karnataka. Students were asked to pay 12.20 lakh up front and give post-dated cheques for the remaining amount. In April, when they reached their ‘allotted’ colleges to confirm the admissions, they were shocked to find that their names were nowhere in the list. The admission agents, unsurprisingly, were unreachable. “We were too shocked to even grasp what was happening,” said Patil.

Although admission scams, especially in the medical sector, have been common for several years, parents and experts feel that instances are increasing, especially in the last five years. The reasons are not far to seek—the number of applicants from Maharashtra increases by a few lakhs every year while the total seat intake increases only by a few hundreds. This year, a record 18.72 lakh medical and dental aspirants registered for NEET 2022, out of which 2.5 lakh students belonged to Maharashtra.

The admission agents, who use the latest technology to hack into college and coaching class websites, know that their money will come from students who have scored low marks, said Anuja Madan, a student activist. “These students are usually desperate for admission, and easy prey for scamsters,” she said. “More cheating cases happen in smaller cities and towns, where students have fewer college options, and therefore fall for such scams.”

In 2017, the Navi Mumbai EOW arrested five former engineering college friends in a 3.1 crore MBBS admission scam. Nearly 17 students had complained of being duped by the accused, out of which two already had similar cases of cheating slapped against them in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh.

In July 2022, the Sion police arrested Rakesh Verma, the former assistant dean of Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital and Medical College, attached to Sion Hospital, for duping a Kolhapur-based doctor of 21 lakh on the pretext of giving him admission to a post-graduate medical course degree. According to the victim’s statement, Verma’s accomplice lured the victim to visit Sion Hospital where he met assistant dean Verma and was assured a seat in the state quota for 60 lakh. The victim agreed and paid his first instalment of 21 lakh.

Interestingly, this was the fourth case in which Verma was arrested. In December 2020, he was nabbed for allegedly duping two doctors, one each from Pune and Hyderabad of 50 lakh and 18.50 lakh respectively. Another such case was registered against him in May 2021. Moreover, police officers from Sion police station confirmed that there were at least five other cases registered against him, three in Punjab and one each in Nagpur and Gujarat.

“Despite several cases of cheating being filed, this doesn’t seem to stop the scamsters. We are try to spread awareness about such cases as much as possible,” said Sanjay Patil, deputy commissioner of police, Zone 4. “The modus operandi used by most frauds is similar, and most of the times they operate with the help of senior professors or the administrative staff of colleges.”

Experts aver that the constant delay in admissions, especially in the last three years, has paved the way for more fraud agents. “The unnecessary delay creates uncertainty for students, who then panic and explore alternate ways to secure a seat. Multiple calls and messages from agents luring students with seats—sometimes expensive, and sometimes at throwaway rates in “top medical colleges” convince students to pay money, only to get looted of lakhs of rupees,” said Sudha Shenoy, activist and parent of a PG medical aspirant.

In 2020, the pandemic and eventual lockdown pushed admissions to professional courses, including the medical course, to November and December that year. The following year, the pandemic as well as several petitions in high courts as well as the Supreme Court led to a delay of over four months, leading to not a single medical admission being conducted in the year 2021. “Frauds exploit the desperation that this leads to and loot money. The police and the system are doing very little to control it,” said Shenoy.

*With inputs from Manish Pathak

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