Kolkata: In a time when Bengal Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is busting rackets producing fake doctors – who buy fake MBBS and MD degrees to practise for years in state-run and private sector premier hospitals – this poor agriculture labourer is certainly an exception. Pradip Halder, 48, has appeared for the medical entrance examination 17 times, every year since 2000, and is single-mindedly pursuing his dream to become a doctor someday.
Halder, a father of two daughters and a son, took the entrance test this year too and is waiting for the results. His target: to secure a rank within 500 in the SC category that will enable him to secure a seat in a government-run medical college.
The best rank he has got is 1,725. “I have to get within the top 500 which can secure me a place in a state-run medical college,” Halder told HT.
He is also praying that the common medical entrance test does not become mandatory, or even if it, the upper age limit of 30 years for an SC candidate (25 years in the general category) is relaxed. Incidentally, Bengal that does not have any age ceiling. Bengal has got about 2,700 MBBS seats in state-run and private medical colleges.
A resident of Pratappur in Krishnaganj of Nadia district in Bengal, a distance of about 125 km from Kolkata, Halder is a poor man. He earns just about Rs 4,000 a month working as an agriculture labourer a month. He has inherited homestead land and does not have any land of his own.
When it rains, the walls of bamboo and roof of tin of his house are not even enough to prevent the water from coming in. He could not enroll his name in the BPL list, and therefore, did not get benefits such as cheap rice and a basic house.
Halder, whose hairs are graying fast, is not at all perturbed by the jibes that regularly fly at him. “Villagers often ridicule me as I prepare and appear for the test every year. But I am not deterred. I will be a doctor one day,” he said, the grit apparent in his voice.
A resident of a remote Bengal village, where quacks pass off as doctors for the thousands of villagers, Halder is quite an aberration. Why didn’t he start practising as a quack, or work as an assistant to a qualified doctor?
“I don’t believe in cheating people. I have confidence in myself and will keep appearing for the entrance test till I qualify,” Halder asserted.
“In 2013, he got in touch with me. I was impressed by his passion, and decided to take him under my wings. His ranks are going up every year. I am really hopeful that he will realise his dream someday,” Dr A K Maity told HT. Maity who is a retired government doctor now runs a coaching centre for medical aspirants in Kolkata.
Since then every year, Maity brings Halder to Kolkata, puts him up at a shared cheap accommodation for four to six weeks before the entrance examination and helps him prepare for the test. He funds all expenses of Halder during this period.
But even he cracks it this time, how will Halder fund his studies? With reference books and hostel expenses, any amount is out of reach of this poor labourer.
“If I can secure admission, I will fund the studies by some means or the other. There are a lot of kind souls such as Dr Maity who are eager to help me,” said Halder. This is the only time the grit in his voice faded and it appeared to be choking a bit.
Born in 1969, Halder passed class X from Bengal board in 1986. Then poverty forced him to take a gap. In 2000, he passed plus two level with English, Hindi, physics, chemistry and biology. From that year, began his tryst with the medical entrance exam.