The provisions of opening and running a medical college in India need to be re-examined urgently if the future and careers of thousands of students are to be saved.
Whenever a private medical college is opened in India, it has to fulfil first the essentiality criteria which means the area in which it will be set up should require a medical college. The parties wanting to open the college then make an application to the Central government to allow it to admit its first batch.
The Central government asks the MCI to conduct inspections and if the college fulfils all norms, MCI recommends that the Central government allow the college to admit its first batch. Annual inspections are then conducted by MCI for four years before it makes a recommendation to award recognition to that college to the Central government. Unfortunately, if the college fails the second and third inspection but passes the fourth, MCI has to recommend to the Centre that the college be recognised and the students be granted valid degrees.
So what’s the solution for students of a college which fails all fours inspections? “According to section 10A of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, if a college has admitted one batch and it fails to have facilities for the second batch, the state government will take over the college. Besides this provision in the act, the state government gives an undertaking while issuing essentiality certificate that in case the college fails to create infrastructure as per MCI norms and fresh admissions are stopped by the Centre, the state government shall take over the responsibility of the students already admitted in the college with the permission of the Centre. This is the crux of the whole problem,” says a senior doctor and one of the members of MCI.
“The question is: what will the state do by taking over the college? Ideally it should get the caution money from the MCI which the college has deposited and create its own facilities in the college. Unfortunately, that does not happen. If the state can’t create facilities then it can shift students from the college in question to recognised colleges but for that the state has to first close down the college. If that’s not done MCI will not allow transfer of students to other colleges,” says a medical expert on conditions of anonymity.
Medical experts agree that due to a nexus between promoters of medical colleges and state governments the latter doesn’t take a call on closing down the college and the ultimate losers are the students. Why is closing down the college a pre-requisite for shifting students to other colleges? A senior lawyer, who used to appear for MCI’s admission matters in the Supreme Court, answers: “Let’s say that X college has failed to get permission to admit its third batch. Now you want all the students of the first and second batches to be shifted to other colleges and also keep college X running and admitting fresh batches. One should understand that shifting students to other colleges is a big challenge as those colleges will then have to stretch their facilities which impacts studies and training of their own students. And what’s the guarantee that X college will improve in the future? By shifting students from X college to other colleges, not only will X college become a liability for other colleges, we will in fact negatively affect the education of the other students.”
The promoters of these colleges, however, have a different take on the issue. According to them, barring a college from admitting fresh batches actually aggravates the whole situation. “Once a college is not granted permission for new batches, its physical strength and manpower deteriorates. Doctors and other employees become insecure and start quitting. Even students get stressed due to uncertainty and their studies go for a toss,” says a promoter whose college was not granted permission to admit fresh batch in 2015-16.