New Delhi: Medical students and senior resident doctors have called off their strike after the union health ministry issued a statement to temporarily put on hold the rural posting criteria to take admission in postgraduate courses. According to the statement, the rural posting will not be mandatory for those appearing in PG entrance examination for the year 2015-16.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday met the students and assured that MBBS course duration is not seven and a half years as mentioned in an earlier notification saying it was just a typographical error and informed the agitators that their demands against an increase in MBBS course duration can be discussed in a peaceful manner.
According to a statement issued by the health ministry on Thursday, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad met the representatives of agitating medical students and listened to their concerns patiently and allayed their fears regarding the Medical Council of India (MCI) notification in respect of one year mandatory rural posting of PHC (Primary Health Centre) after completion of MBBS, before they seek admission to PG course. “The minister has directed concerned officials of the ministry to keep the notification in abeyance,” it said.
Setting at rest all speculation that the period of MBBS course has been extended by two years, the minister made it clear that there is no such proposal. He also stated that rural posting will not be mandatory for appearing in PG examination for the year 2015-16, the statement said.
According to the statement, “A letter to this effect has already been issued to the MCI.”
However, the statement did not give much satisfaction to the agitating students as the relief related to rural posting has been given only for the current batch. The students are also exploring legal options now to deal with the situation.
Urvashi, an MBBS student of Lady Harding Medical College here, who was a part of the delegation which met the health minister, told India Medical Times, “Yes, we have ended the protest yesterday evening only. But this is not what we wanted. Our struggle is not for the current batch but for all the coming batches in the future. The statement issued by the ministry is a gimmick as they pushed the issue on the next ministry to be formed after the general elections. What the new government will bring in the upcoming tenure is not yet known. We want a permanent solution.”
“We are planning to take a legal course if our demands are not met. A PIL (public interest litigation) is on the cards but the thought has to take a concrete shape yet. As of now we have decided to adopt a wait and watch approach. We will again hit the streets if we are not given a sincere solution,” she said.
Another student who was also a part of the delegation, on the condition of anonymity told India Medical Times, “We are not satisfied with the government’s half-hearted statements. Is it an answer to the nationwide strike with so many voices against the compulsory rural posting and increased duration of the course? When we enter medical colleges, we are mentally prepared that we have to study for 5.5 years and suddenly we are informed that we have to spend another year or so. Is it justified?”
Around 2,000 MBBS students of all premier government medical colleges here — including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, the University College of Medical Sciences, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Maulana Azad Medical College — protested for two days in front of the health ministry’s office at Nirman Bhawan.
Students were demanding that instead of increasing the MBBS course duration, the compulsory one-year rural posting be either incorporated within the existing MBBS course structure or included as a part of the PG curriculum and the MBBS course duration should be brought back to the original five and half years.
The statement issued by the health ministry on Thursday has, in the meanwhile, given a great reprieve to the current batch of MBBS students. What lies in store for future students remains to be seen.
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