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Studying medicine abroad is not a sin Dr Harsh Vardhan! India needs more doctors now

Medical profession is deemed to be one of the noblest professions and everyone wants to be part of it.

However very few get chance to study medicine in India due to the limited number of seats and are called Indian Medical Graduates (IMG). People from well-to-do background capable who are unable to get into Indian institutes spend money go to foreign institutes to fulfill their dream and are called Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG).

However there is discrimination by the Government between IMG & FMG without any logical reason and argument. For an Indian student to pursue medicine in any foreign country, he must receive eligibility certificate from the Medical Council of India (MCI). Furthermore, the college/university must also be recognized by World Health Organization (WHO). 

The infrastructure of the foreign institutes is on par or sometimes even better than Indian medical colleges. The teaching is done by doctorate staffs, same as India and a similar syllabus is taught in both Indian and foreign medical institutes.

These are the primary reasons that have led MCI to allow Indians to pursue medical education in Foreign Medical Institutes in the first place. But due to some reasons, screening test- Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) was decided to be conducted for FMG despite having the eligibility certificate issued by the MCI. However IMG have been exempted from any such exams until this minute.

Initially one could access question papers and answer sheets through Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI). However National Board of Examinations which conducts the examination for MCI surprisingly inserted a Non-disclosure agreement in 2008, which prohibits anyone from sharing the questions and answers in any form.

MCI conducts FMGE twice a year. Due to unavailability of previous year question papers and answers, very high standard questions and cut-off at 50% since 2002 itself have made the situation worse and merely 15-20% of the students could qualify.

Parliament has passed National Medical Commission Act, 2019 according to which both Indian and Foreign Medical Graduate has to appear for a National Exit Test. FMGE is the screening test for FMG where as National Eligibility Test-Post Graduation (NEET-PG) is the entrance test for IMG for post graduation courses in India. As per the act, FMGE and NEET-PG will be replaced by National Exit Test (Herein NEXT) from 2022 and candidates pursuing medical education across India and outside India will have to qualify for this exam.

Government and MCI have continuously reduced the Cut-Off for NEET-PG in the past 4 years and have reduced cut-off to 30 Percentile for General, 25 Percentile for PwD (General) and 20 Percentile for SC/ST/POBC & PwD(SC/ST/POBC). On the other hand, cut-off is fixed for FMGE at 50% since its inception in 2002 and has not been changed ever.

Against the discrimination, various representations have been made before the Medical Council of India (MCI), Ministry of Health and Family Planning and Dr Harsh Vardhan’s office. Over 50 MLAs & MPs wrote to the ministry to reduce the cut-off. However no satisfactory resolution/solution has been concluded by the Governments. Government is probably with the impression believe that IMG with 30 percentile (approximately 23%) can become a specialist including surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, pediatricians however FMG who want to be an ordinary physician must possess 50%. 

That the National Medical Commission Bill passed by both the houses of parliament, signed into law by the President of India, establishes that NEET-PG and FMGE are nothing but two faces of a coin. However, Government in their conduct is making the petitioners believe that they have committed a very great sin by studying medical abroad. 

India is currently facing acute shortage of doctors, and more so during this Covid-19 crisis. Several states in India are training the final year MBBS students and teachers for medical profession in case of emergency. In many parts of India, Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery (Herein BAMS) and Bachelor of Homeopathic, Medicine and Surgery (Herein BHMS) are acting as general physicians, but FMG’S are overlooked and rejected despite having the degree from MCI & WHO recognized institutions.

These doctors, if given chance to practice, can save million lives. Hear their voiceS Dr Harshvardhan:

Arun(graduated from China): This is clear discrimination and is against the Right to Equality as guaranteed by the Constitution. 

Abhishek (graduated from Ukraine): Cut-off for Neet-PG is Percentile and ours (FMGE) is percentage which makes a huge difference at last.

Divyanshu (graduated from China): Since past 18 years, FGM are being discriminated as if we aren’t the child of this nation. IGM as well as officials treat us like untouchables.

Asif, another FMG: PG seats are vacant in many medical colleges in India and that’s why government has reduced their cut-off.

Rahul Krishna (graduated from China): If the students graduating from USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and UK don’t need to write FMGE, then why are we being forced to write it?

Abhishek (graduated from Philippines): SC guidelines say that FMGE should be of MBBS level. However the FGME currently is of PG level. There is a mafia of coaching institutions who doesn’t want students to pass and rather join their institutes.

Raj, another FMG: We’re ready to serve 1 year in rural area for free as a condition for our demands.

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief GoaChronicle.com
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