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Protest against increased duration of MBBS enters its second day

New Delhi: In a significant development on the second day of protest by medical students at Nirman Bhawan here, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad met representatives of government medical college students and the Resident Doctors Associations (RDAs) and gave them a verbal assurance that their demands would be looked into.

Protesting students and interns from medical colleges of Delhi at Nirman Bhavan
Protesting students and interns from medical colleges of Delhi at Nirman Bhavan

A student, who was part of the delegation that met Azad, told India Medical Times on condition of anonymity, “We met the union health minister, additional secretary and joint secretary who gave only verbal assurance that the rural posting is not compulsory for admission to postgraduate courses and the course duration of MBBS would likely not be increased.”

“On the confusion that the duration of MBBS internship would be two years, the health minister clarified that it was a typographical error by the secretary of family welfare department and it is only one year. When we asked for a written assurance, he refused to do so. Since there were no concrete promises by the government, we have decided, for meanwhile, to continue our strike,” the student added.

Students and interns from medical colleges of Delhi sleeping on the street outside Nirman Bhavan on Wednesday night.
Students and interns from medical colleges of Delhi sleeping on the street outside Nirman Bhavan on Wednesday night.

Reiterating their demand to roll back the increased course duration of MBBS, 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 — have been protesting in front of the health ministry’s office at Nirman Bhawan since Wednesday.

Sources said the protest is also joined by members of the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) of government hospitals here including Guru Teg Bahadur, Hindu Rao, AIIMS and Lok Nayak Hospital.

The protesting students have registered their demand to revise proposed MBBS course structure under which the duration of course has been increased from the existing 5.5 years to 6.5 years with the addition of a compulsory one-year rural posting for admission into postgraduate programmes (MD/MS).

Students are 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 part of the PG curriculum and the MBBS course duration should be brought back to the original five and half years.

The strike is taking a nationwide turn with medical students of other states, including Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir joining the protest and demonstrating in their respective state by citing the example of Delhi.

Students are also up in arms against the reported use of batons (lathi) and water cannons on some students by the policemen in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Some students were apparently hurt in the police action. The police action reportedly even continued on Thursday to disrupt the protest.

“MBBS course should be brought back to the original 5.5 years. Lathi charge on girls, followed by water cannons fired on medical students peacefully protesting outside the ministry of health is pathetic. We are not against rural postings, but we want the one-year rural posting to be included as a part of our curriculum either during the MBBS course or at the postgraduate stage,” said another medical student.

On December 17, Azad informed the Rajya Sabha that a proposal of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to make one year rural posting mandatory for a MBBS student, to apply for admission in a PG medical course, had been approved by the health ministry. “This is proposed to be implemented from the academic year 2015-16,” he said.

by Vidhi Rathee

[Photos Credit: Indian Medical Students’ Association]

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