New Delhi: Around 4,800 MBBS seats have been reserved for students from economically weaker sections in the current year, Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said Friday.He told the Lok Sabha that there has been an increase of 24,698 seats for Under Graduate and Post Graduate in medical colleges in more than two years. There has been an increase of 15,815 UG seats and 2,153 PG seats during the 2017-18 and 2019-20 period. In 2019-20, 10,565 UG seats and 2,153 PG seats have been increased, he said. Also Read – How a psychopath killer hid behind the mask of a devout laity!The Minister of Health and Family Welfare said there are now around 75,000 MBBS seats for students who qualify the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET). “The government has taken several steps to increase the number of seats in various medical educational institutes/ medical colleges across the country,” he said. Responding to supplementaries during Question Hour, Vardhan said around 4,800 MBBS seats have been reserved for students from economically weaker sections this year. Also Read – Encounter under way in Pulwama, militant killedAmong various measures, it has been made mandatory for all medical colleges to start PG courses within three years from the date of their MBBS course recognition. The minister said new medical colleges are also being established by upgrading district/referral hospitals preferably in under-served districts. In a written reply, Vardhan said 82 such new medical colleges are being established under a centrally-sponsored scheme. Under the scheme, the Centre would provide 60 per cent of the funding while the rest would come from the state concerned. In the case of North Eastern states, 90 per cent of the funds would be from the central government. Vardhan said in the first phase, 58 districts in 20 states/ Union Territories have been identified and approved. “Total cost of establishment of one medical college is Rs 189 crore. Funds to the tune of Rs 7,507.70 crore have been released to the state/ Union Territory governments for the approved medical colleges under the scheme,” he noted. As many as 39 medical colleges have become functional in the first phase of the scheme that was launched in January 2014. In the second phase, 24 new medical colleges in eight states have been identified. “The total cost of establishment of one medical college under this phase is Rs 250 crore,” the minister said. Out of the 24, 17 medical colleges have been approved till date and funds to the tune of Rs 1,375.13 crore have been released to the state governments, he added.