Over the years, undergraduate medical studies in India have been mired in controversy, and a mushrooming of private colleges to meet growing demand has led to widespread corruption and a fall in the quality of medical education in the country.
Amid this mushrooming, the Union health ministry has banned 32 private medical colleges from admitting students for two years, overruling a Supreme Court panel that had cleared their alleged substandard facilities. The ministry also forfeited the colleges’ security deposit of Rs 2 crore each. Nearly 4,000 medical students in these private colleges might find their institutes disqualified as these have failed to pass standard checks. But the ministry has allowed 4,000 undergraduate students enrolled in these institutes to continue studying.
The decision was taken on the basis of the inspection report which highlighted gross deficiency of facilities. In May 2016, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member Oversight Committee (OC), headed by former chief justice ML Lodha, to check alleged corruption in the Medical Council of India, which regulates such studies, and suggest ways to improve standards.
By the time the court panel was constituted, the MCI had completed inspecting 109 new colleges that had applied to admit medical students in 2016. Subsequently these colleges admitted their first batch — 3,957 students — last summer. These students had cleared the national eligibility cum entrance test (NEET). Rules stipulate that these students — studying for their bachelors of medicine (MBBS) — should be shifted to other medical colleges if their institutes get disqualified.
But the panel reviewed the MCI’s decision and permitted 34 more colleges to take in students. This set the panel on a collision course with the MCI for MCI allowed only 17 colleges. The panel gave the permission to these colleges only after they gave an undertaking that they will fulfil all criteria. There itself it was made clear that if they happen to fail a fresh inspection they will be banned for two years and their deposits will be forfeited.
Only two colleges — Maheshwara Medical College in Andhra Pradesh’s Chitkul, and Amaltas Institute of Medical Sciences at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh — met the regulator’s benchmark, when MCI together with joint four-member inspection team of the Oversight Committee visited these colleges between November and December and found them “grossly deficient in basic facilities. In most of the institutes, the MCI found shortage of faculty and resident doctors, locked intensive care units (ICU) and emergency wards, and vacant general wards. Some of the colleges forged documents to show adequate faculty or lined up fake patients for MCI inspectors.
Finally the MCI recommended banning 32 colleges. However, just a day before the court panel’s mandate was to run out on May 15, it reversed the MCI recommendations, permitting 26 colleges to admit students and suggesting fresh inspection of the remaining six.