A small pie, too many takers


Foreign shores beckon

The rush for foreign medical colleges over the years has been triggered by a dearth of MBBS seats in India as well as the relatively low cost of medical education abroad. This has long been common knowledge among the Indian students’ community. Not just the low cost or availability of seats in foreign MCI-recognized universities, those who make the cut abroad have set up careers as rewarding as their peers who were lucky to get an MBBS seat at home.

What possibly bypasses collective wisdom is the need for having more doctors in India. A recent survey done in the U.S.A says India has a shortage of nearly 6 lakh doctors. Compounding this scenario is India’s current doctor-patient ratio which stands at an abysmally low 1:1456 against the WHO mandated 1:1000, which is still low but not unwieldly. The Government of India does have ambitious plans to bring in medical education reforms but to date, no perceptible change to the prevailing situation has been noticed.

Or else, why would there be more than 21 candidates competing for just one MBBS seat in the upcoming NEET? This figure has been reached following a report shared by the NTA which said that a whopping 15,93,452 candidates are set to appear for NEET 20202. And a section of the media has reported that henceforth, “NEET will be the single entrance exam for MBBS admissions in all medical colleges of the country, including AIIMS and JIPMER.”

More and more students are aspiring to be doctors, as evidenced in the number of registered candidates for NEET 2020 increasing by almost 15%. In 2019, 15 lakh candidates had registered for the exam, which makes NEET one of the toughest exams in the world to crack.

Of course, it goes without saying that this stiff tussle for one MBBS seat can be somewhat eased by increasing the number of medical seats. But that seems to be a long shot.

“In 2014 the government had announced to add 10,000 MBBS seats by 2020-2021. This decision was taken in 2014 after the government had considered the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s proposal relating to the Centre-sponsored scheme for upgradation of government medical colleges and increasing the number of MBBS seats. Under this scheme the funding pattern is 70:30 ratio between the central government and the state government, with an exception for the north eastern and special category states where the funding pattern is 90:10.

However, an RTI reply, issued in February 2019, gave shocking reports of addition of only 920 MBBS seats against the promised 10,000 seats in the last five years,” an online report by NDTV says.

Even if the number of seats is increased, would the fees for studying MBBS be within the reach of all aspirants? This is a question that needs to be addressed at this juncture. And so, foreign medical schools, where the admission process is not so cumbersome and where medical education is as good as anywhere else in the world for fees lower than India’s, will justifiably continue to be a coveted destination for Indian students.

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