Tamil Nadu Foreign Medical Graduates stage protests; demand gov't to bring out internship fee waiver order

Foreign Medical graduates take to the streets to protest after no government order was issued since the health minister’s announcement of the internship fee waiver
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

The Foreign Medical Graduates (FMG) of Tamil Nadu have been staging protests since Wednesday, November 2, to urge the state government to issue an order for their fee waiver. The State Health and Family Welfare Minister, Ma Subramanian, announced the waiver on July 29 but has not published any order for the same. “It has been three months since the announcement and yet there has been no order. The declaration came as a relief to us but now we don’t know anymore,” says M Senthil Kumar, the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Medical Students' Association (TNMSA) - FMG wing. 

The FMGs who wanted to pursue their Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internship (CRRI) at government medical colleges in Tamil Nadu had to pay Rs 2 lakhs as fees for a no-objection certificate. On March 4, 2022, the National Medical Commission (NMC) issued guidelines for the registration of FMGs to make it clear that they must not be charged for their CRRI training and further added that these students would receive an equivalent stipend and other benefits as the Indian medical graduates. The decision eased the burden on the FMGs who were not paid a stipend for their work.

What happened?
Although the Tamil Nadu government announced slashing the fees down by 90% as per the directives of the NMC, they did not publish any government order for the same. Health minister, Ma Subramanian announced on July 29 that the FMGs would have to only pay Rs 30,000 now. “Most of the other states have already complied with the NMC directions. Additionally, the Tamil Nadu government accepted and announced it, I don’t understand why they aren't issuing the order. We are losing out on time and nothing is getting done,” says Senthil Kumar

The FMG students who completed their six-year course abroad, already have a financial burden on their heads. In addition to that, it takes one year for a student to clear their Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) to become eligible to practice medicine in India. The delay is thus causing more anguish among the students. Senthil Kumar adds, “It also takes another four months for verification from the state medical council and allocation for the CRRI. Already there are only few vacancies for internships, we need a response fast.”

Solidarity and protests
Other organisations like the Doctors’ Association for Social Equality (DASE) are standing in solidarity with the students. DASE has been supporting the cause since January this year and is staging demonstrations along with the medical graduates at Valluvar Kottam in Chennai to urge the government to publish the order. “No one should have to pay for internships and they must be given their stipend. The demands of these graduates are genuine. The fees should be cancelled,” says Dr Ravindranath GR, the General Secretary of DASE. 

On May 26, the Tamil Nadu Medical Council (TNMC) also released a notification to the State and Family Welfare department regarding the NMC’s internship fees regulation of FMGs to ensure that no fees are collected and additional stipends are also awarded. Every year more than 1,000 medicos from Tamil Nadu finish their degree abroad and come back to appear for the FMGE test and practice medicine in India. As per a Times of India report, 600 medicos who had finished their coursework in 2019 and passed the test are still waiting for internships. 

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