Why is it so difficult to get SAARC MBBS Scholarship offered by Bangladesh?

A case that surfaced brings forth the dilemma faced by Ubair Fayaz, a resident of Kashmir who despite scoring commendable scores could not procure the scholarship
Picture Courtesy: TNIE
Picture Courtesy: TNIE

In a despondent plea, Ubair Fayaz, a resident of the town of Kulgam, Jammu and Kashmir, has written to Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha and the Ministry of External Affairs, S Jaishankar. Fayaz's dream of becoming a doctor might come to a grinding halt and is now clouded by doubts and confusion over certain results declared by the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh, on July 31, 2023. 

Ubair who has been a meritorious student, and was a student from the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education, had applied for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) MBBS 2023 Scholarship, sponsored by the Bangladesh Government that reserved a total of 104 seats for MBBS and 13 seats for BDS courses for the students from the seven SAARC nations namely India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan. 

Ubair’s grievances hark around the fact that despite achieving an aggregate of 98.6%, scoring a 98 in Biology, 99 in Physics and 99 in Chemistry and with a total of 493 marks out of 500 in his J&K Board of State Examination (JKBose) for Class XII in the year 2021, he could not qualify for it, still. 

A letter dated August 3, 2023, has also been forwarded by the State President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Ravinder Raina to the Ministry of External Affairs, to give adequate representation to the issue. 

The student who is also ranked 7th in the State Examination, alleges that the whole procedure was unfair as students who had allegedly scored lower marks than him, had received the scholarship. 

Dr Wasim Khan, President of JKMSA (Jammu and Kashmir Medical Students’s Association) also alleges that there is no exact information on the selection process, and alleges "involvement of consultants and agents.”

The student says that till now, there has been no response by the government, or by the Bangladesh High Commission or the Embassy. 

What is the eligibility criteria?

Students who avail the opportunity of booking themselves a SAARC quota MBBS seat in Bangladesh, get some waiver in their tuition fees and to be eligible for it, a student must necessarily fulfil some criterias that firstly expects them to procure the minimum qualifying marks of the NEET exam.  

The notice released by the Directorate General of Medical Education, Bangladesh, states, “Applicants must have aggregate GPA 8.0 (Eight) in GPA 5 (Five) scale for Government Medical/Dental Colleges/Dental Units and GPA 7.0 (Seven) in GPA 5 (Five) scale for Private Medical/Dental Colleges/Dental Units with GPA 4.0 in Biology in HSC/A-level/equivalent examination in both instances."

The Evaluation Board takes into consideration not only the marks for Class XII but also for Class X. Although they have set minimum criteria for application, the chances of receiving the scholarships increase if the student scores near to cent per cent marks in PCB (Physics/Chemistry/Biology) subjects, especially in Biology. 

EdexLive spoke to an educational consultancy based out of West Bengal, and on the condition of anonymity, they said, “We have had students who had scored close to full marks with a 100 in Biology, yet they were rejected on grounds unknown. The competition is too high as for a mere 20+ seats, almost 1,300-1,400 students apply and almost everyone’s meritorious.”

Woes that continue

Ubair says, “I was sure I would get the scholarship, or else I would not have wasted my two years.” But he says that his hopes were dashed when he saw his name was not on the list. “My dream has always been of becoming a doctor, and I had toiled hard for years to achieve good marks and attain knowledge.” 

He further adds that hailing from a small town in Kashmir, they are not financially resourceful enough to pay for private tuition fees. Although belonging to Jammu and Kashmir, the students now fall under the category of “Open Merit”, he said to EdexLive, which means that they are now marked under the unreserved category which further makes it difficult for him to secure a good government college via the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test - Undergraduate (NEET-UG) exam.  

This year two students scored a 99.99 percentile in the NEET UG exams held by the National Testing Agency (NTA), with 11,45,976 qualifying the exam. The growing competition is palpable as medical aspirants grow in number with each passing year and hence, the opportunities are granted to a handful, leaving the rest in perpetual doubts about their future.  

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