Good but inadequate

The condition that any Indian student who intends to pursue Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) or Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) abroad will first have to take National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is a logical one. But whether it would actually ensure any reduction in quackery is a different question altogether. The requirement for the same till last year was that students would obtain an eligibility certificate from the Medical Council of India. The reason why the new condition has been introduced is that only about 12 to 15 per cent of students graduating in medicine from foreign universities and returning to the country are able to clear the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination (FMGE) for licensure conducted by the MCI. The majority of students who are unable to clear FMGE tend to practice medicine without licence, which poses grave risk to people’s health. It might, unintentionally, open the path to quacks. There can be no two opinions that greater quality controls are essential to ensure that the practice of medicine is not maligned by ineligible practitioners. But adding just another hurdle such as NEET may not suffice to hold people, especially the wealthy, from sending their wards abroad to pursue studies in medicine. A greater need, maybe, is to disincentivise medicine as an avenue for big earnings. However, if this outlook is adopted officially, then a time may come very soon when there would be extremely few doctors in this country of ever increasing population. Offering lower incentives to doctors would not remain compartmentalised to only those that have obtained their degrees from abroad. This would affect domestic medical students too, if accepted as a government policy.

Instead, it may be achievable in a positive manner if other streams of education are also given their due place in society. One may correctly argue that a doctor is more important to society than a historian. In fact in a healthier society, a historian may be valued as much as a doctor, as he would be able to forewarn people of possible dangers ahead based on knowledge of historical precedents. As a short-term measure, the introduction of the hurdle of NEET should contain the rush for medical degrees from shady universities abroad for a while, but it is bound to become dysfunctional the way most other preventive measures taken in the past have. In the long term, conditions can change only when every subject is learnt out of interest and aptitude alone and not for the material gains attached. For that to happen, education will first have to be delinked from material comforts. That is a near impossibility. The minimum material comfort will have to be ensured to each individual in any country before the country can dream of a situation where each profession receives its due respect and the society feels it is developed. India seems very far away from such a paradise.

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