Foreign graduates claim they are discriminated against at various levels
Pankaj Kumar | September 5, 2014
Foreign medical graduates are a worried lot. Reason: out of 6,000 students who appeared for the screening test on June 17, only 250 cleared it.
Conducted by the National Board of Exams (NBE), the test screens such students to be eligible to practise medicine in India. Such low numbers being allowed to qualify has become worrisome for the students who have done MBBS-level courses from outside India. “The idea of conducting this exam was to check the basic knowledge of students, but the NBE has raised the level so much that the percentage of students passing the exam has decreased from 20 percent to 4.17 percent in the last two years,” said Dr Dushyant, a medical graduate from Moscow.
[Also read: Q: What ails medical education in India? A: MCI]
Through July-August these students demonstrated repeatedly at Jantar Mantar to attract the attention of the Modi government. On August 19, they even marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to submit a memorandum over “treatment we are getting from the authorities”.
Not only this, foreign graduates claim they are discriminated against at various levels. Even after clearing the exam, they are forced to pay an internship fee in most of the states while students who study in Indian colleges – government or private – are paid a stipend. For instance, in Rajasthan foreign graduates have to pay '1 lakh for internship, whereas in MP they have to pay '70,000-Rs 80,000 even if they have cleared the screening exam in India.
Recently, a delegation of the international forum of medical graduates met health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and suggested that instead of the screening exam, foreign graduates should be made to compulsorily work in public health centres (PHC) for two years before choosing to practise elsewhere.
The forum’s contention is that rather than testing the basic knowledge of these doctors, which was the original purpose of this exam, the test is being used to dissuade students from going abroad to study medicine. “We are asked to take a screening test but why are students from private colleges not asked the same? They (also) get admission after paying capitation fees.” said Dr Piyush, also a foreign graduate.
Students protesting at Jantar Mantar allege a strong nexus between NBE, private colleges and the medical council of India (MCI). According to them, they pay less to study medicine abroad – “they (institutions abroad) charge '4-5 lakh whereas in India, students have to pay a minimum '20 lakh in capitation fee besides the tuition fee of about '10 lakh per annum”, one protester said.
“The whole idea is to discourage students from going abroad so that maximum fees and capitation fees can be charged from students studying in India,” said another foreign graduate, who did not want to be named.
An official of the NBE, however, defended the tough question papers: “The standard of exam is deliberately kept at a very high level to ensure optimum standards because there are several colleges abroad whose standards are of poor quality.”
Former MCI secretary Sangeeta Sharma said, “Screening is an important requirement and it is done to test their (foreign graduates’) optimum skills and knowledge to practice in India. But the test should be conducted to check their knowledge and not to eliminate them from practising in India.”
Government apathy and inability to formulate a proper policy is also raising concern, said a former MCI chairman, who did not want to be named. “Some colleges in China and Russia do have poor standards, so a screening test is required. But such a high standard is kept on purpose to fail them to exploit the situation. This smacks of strong corruption and is disastrous for the students and the country,” he said.
Sources say at the most 20-30 percent students pass the test while the rest are forced to waste time preparing for the test again or get involved in illegal practices.
“Some start practising in remote parts of India whereas others are hired by big corporate hospitals on very low salaries as they practise without using their names, and yet others start acting as agents of respective colleges to earn money,” said a former MCI board member on condition of anonymity.
This story first appeared in Magazine Vol 05 Issue 15(01-15 Sept 2014)
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