Published: 25th July 2022
Communication gap evident between NMC and MEA, says Indian medical student from China
The NMC's new affidavit on creating a framework for stranded Indian medical students from abroad, offers some clarification for students from Ukraine. What about students from China, then?
The National Medical Commission (NMC) has released a new affidavit in response to the Supreme Court's directions to formulate a framework for those foreign medical students who came back to India due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war so that they can continue their academics and clinical training.
The new affidavit builds on the "Academic Mobility" proposed for these students as a result of the deliberations between the UGMEB (Undergraduate Medical Education Board), the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with inputs from the Consulates of India in Russia, China, Ukraine and other countries in question, and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
As per the Ministry of Health in Ukraine, universities have been directed to resume academic activities, subject to the state of warfare in their areas. In the meantime, students are now permitted to continue their education in other, more suitable medical colleges, both in Ukraine and other countries. Additionally, the new affidavit states that stage one of the Licensed Integrated Examination or KROK-1, which is a qualifying exam for foreigners who are pursuing their medical education in Ukraine, set for October this year, has now been rescheduled.
On the other hand, KROK-2, which is a licensing exam for foreign medical graduates in Ukraine, has been cancelled this year. Alternatively, students will have to pass the online state practical examination in order to be licensed. On the other hand, if the university is located in a war zone, previous assessments will be considered to calculate final marks at the end of the sixth year. Students are also required to obtain a No Objection Certificate from their respective universities and complete an internship before they can begin their practise as a doctor.
To recall, the Supreme Court had directed the NMC, on April 29, 2022, to come up with a one-time scheme to allow all those students who couldn't continue their clinical training abroad to do so in medical colleges in India. These students being referred to are from various countries including China, who are stuck in India because of a temporary visa ban, now being lifted in small batches, induced by the pandemic and war-torn Ukraine.
The NMC had originally released an affidavit on July 18, stating that these students could not be accommodated in medical institutions in India due to a lack of infrastructure, clinical material, lack of teaching faculty and other physical facilities. This was in response to the demands of the students, and bodies such as the Parents Association of Ukraine MBBS Students that the students be accommodated in medical colleges in India so they can complete their medical education.
However, the affidavit provided that arrangements are being made by these countries to ensure that students get to complete their medical education. While China has begun the process of getting students back to the country to finish their studies after a temporary visa ban owing to the pandemic, Russia has now said that students from universities in Ukraine can pursue their education in universities in the Russian Federation. Kazakhstan has made a similar offer, and has in fact said that it will host a video conference to familiarise Indian students with the top universities in the country.
For its part, the NMC had said in the July 18 affidavit that foreign medical graduates who had to leave their country of study due to war/pandemic, and finished their studies online, but were not able to appear for clinical training will now be allowed to appear for the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam (FMGE) which will allow them to practice medicine in India. Graduates who qualify for the FMGE will be required to complete a two-year Compulsory Rotating Medical Internship (CRMI) to make up for the lack of clinical training. This is being offered as a one-time relaxation. In the most recent affidavit, the NMC has now clarified that this relaxation applies to the final-year students.
However, the latest affidavit does not seem to assuage the concerns of Indian students who returned from China. It reiterates the statement made in the earlier affidavit that China "has begun the process of facilitating the return of students back to their country". More than 18,000 Indian medical students came back from China when the pandemic struck. Among these was Rachita Kurmi, a student of Shandong University in China, who has been campaigning for the return of students like herself back to China to complete their education. A student of the 2019 batch, Rachita says that there is a lack of communication between the NMC and MEA. "The NMC is giving us assurances, but they are not aware of how slow the process is of these countries 'facilitating' the return of the students. And the MEA is ignoring the fact that NMC's rules are not helping the students when it comes to their studies. The NMC is merely trying to force the students to transfer and through these affidavits attempting to show that we have 'several options'."
Rachita has compiled a list of universities in China that have communicated with Indian students to enquire about their interest in returning to China, based on information gathered from a group of Indian students in China on the messaging application Telegram. The list comes up to 40 universities and barring three or four universities, the others concern medical students states Rachita. "I still have not heard from my university about the return. I am due to start my fourth year in September and I have already been told that the semester will be taught online," she says. In February this year, the NMC announced that it does not recognise medical degrees obtained only through online mode.