Did not get admission into the best government medical college in your state? Not even to the bottom rung ones? Don’t worry. Your best bet might be to buy a seat in the worst private medical college in the state and pray that it doesn’t get permission to take in students in the coming years. If that happens, you can go crying to the courts seeking relief and the state government will be ordered to accommodate you in the very colleges you could not get into.
That may sound like a bizarre strategy, but this is exactly what has been happening in state after state with several private colleges failing to get permission for student intake after the first, second or third batch. Then the regular pattern of petitioning courts, getting accommodated in government colleges and so on gets rolling.
How can a medical college given recognition and allowed to take in students one year, be found deficient the next year or the year after and be barred from intake? This is thanks to the Medical Council of India’s haphazard system of setting up medical colleges. Any trust, society or company can start a medical college without infrastructure and faculty in place for a full-fledged medical college. All it needs is enough infrastructure for first year MBBS students’ needs and an undertaking that the rest will be put in place. A new college has to be inspected by the MCI assessors every year for up to five years to get permission for intake. Every year, the MCI decides that several colleges are “not approved/permitted for intake”. This is followed by dozens of cases being filed in high courts and the Supreme Court by the management of these colleges challenging it and by students or their parents asking for relief. In 2015 alone, 27 colleges accounting for 3,650 seats were not allowed intake that year.
An analysis of college-wise and year-wise data on intake allowed per college, available only from 2011, showed that about 42 colleges, almost all private, were barred from taking in students for a year or more in this period, in some cases ever since the first batch was taken in.
“They (college managements) are constantly hustling the authorities to give them permission to start taking in students even when there is almost no infrastructure. With political connections (most trusts are either run by or include politicians or their family members) they manage to get the permission too,” said a medical college professor familiar with the process of college recognition.
Out of 10 private medical colleges started in 2014, six accounting for about 900 seats were not allowed intake in 2015. So, what happens to the 900 students admitted into them in 2014, many after paying lakhs as capitation fees?
“When denied permission, college managements tell students and their parents to go to court and seek relief if they don’t want their investment to go waste,” explained a lawyer appearing for some students in Karnataka.
Take the example of Chintpurni Medical College in Punjab. After getting permission to start taking in students in 2011, the college failed to get permission to admit students in subsequent years. Recently, following an order of the Punjab and Haryana HC, the MCI had to give permission to shift the 141 students who were admitted to Chintpurni in 2011 to nine other colleges in the state, three government and six private.
Several questions remain unanswered. What is the liability of the trust which set up the college? What about the capitation fee and other fees collected by the college? How will students who did not come through a common entrance test based on merit be accommodated in other colleges which too have a fixed intake per year? No one appears to be held accountable, neither the college authorities nor the MCI, for the fiasco.
State governments are forced by courts to accommodate these students, thanks to a para in the fixed format of the essentiality certificate, which the state has to issue for any medical college to get permission from MCI to start admissions. This para states “in case the applicant fails to create infrastructure for the medical college as per MCI norms and fresh admissions are stopped by the Central Government, the State Government shall take over the responsibility of the students already admitted in the College with the permission of the Central Government”. This clause is cited by courts to make state governments accommodate students in the best medical colleges in the state, despite their never having come through the merit system.
“The process of medical college recognition is in total anarchy. Shortage of faculty, despite extending retirement age, has meant that many retired government professors are shown as faculty in several medical colleges and draw salary from all of them whether they teach there or not. In the name of addressing doctors’ shortage, all kinds of short cuts are being allowed in setting up of colleges. In many colleges, there isn’t enough patient load and so students are becoming doctors without acquiring any clinical skills. We need a comprehensive scrutiny of existing colleges to understand the problems and then frame rules. Till then, no more colleges ought to be recognised,” said Dr B Ekbal former vice chancellor of the University of Kerala and chairperson of the committee which prepared the report for the setting up of the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS), to which a majority of medical colleges in the state are affiliated.
According to Dr Raj Bahadur, vice chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences and member of MCI’s monitoring committee, the answer was to use rigorous parameters when giving permission to open a medical college. “All have to shoulder the responsibility to open a medical college with all facilities in place. The current business model of starting of a medical college and then using money extracted from students to complete the project is wrong,” said Dr Bahadur.