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Court Freezes Careers of 90,000 Indian Doctors

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90,000 doctors have had their careers stalled by the significant delays of India's Supreme Court . Fury gripped the medical community due to the bureaucratic nightmare that has pushed their patience to the limit. Peaceful protests, fasts and petitions have been taking place all over India. The medical authorities have remained tight-lipped over this fiasco with no resolution in sight.

The problems began last year when the National Eligibility Entrance Test[ NEET] was rolled out to provide a "One Nation-One Exam" solution. This was done to reduce the increasing corruption in medical education that had become endemic. The matter was recently exposed by the channel CNN-IBN in a sting operation. The operation demonstrated the following

• Medical colleges selling seats defying the Supreme Court order
• Officials demanding Crores for Postgraduate medical [PG] seats
• Money Trumps merit: Will Future Doctors be incompetent?
• Legitimate students paid lakhs to vacate PG seats
• How colleges hire docs to fudge medical inspections
• Find out why your child may not get admission to medical college
• Medical seats for sale: Are colleges producing dummy docs?
• CNN IBN uncovers black market for PG medical seats

To throw further fuel on this fire, the Ex Health Minister admitted to a $30 billion dollar medical seat scam. He said

"Ultimately whose responsibility is it? It is the responsibility of the government, you cannot say that they are an autonomous body, take away their autonomy. You are asking the corrupt system to clean its corruption. The total amount involved is more than $30 billion every year. The big money goes to 100 colleges, $30 billion". CNN-IBN

The NEET Exams have been plagued with numerous problems, the biggest being a challenge in the Indian Supreme Court by 76 medical colleges. They have requested an exemption to the NEET under Article 30 of the Indian Constitution.

While arguments and delays continue in the court, one order by the judiciary appears to have held the careers of 90,000 doctors to ransom. The order in December 2012 effectively stated that results would not be published until such time as the final judgment was delivered. Further details can be read here. and in an article by the Hindustan Times .

The Health Minister announced

"In view of the order dated 13.12.2012 of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in T.C. Case No. 101 of 2012 and connected cases, permitting the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India as well as the States and Universities and other Institutions to conduct their respective examinations for MBBS, BDS and Postgraduate courses and restraining them from publishing the result till the outcome of pending cases, it is open for the students from Andhra Pradesh to appear in NEET-2013 or EAMCET or both"

Since then Indian doctors have been playing a long waiting game with their careers on hold. These usually unassuming quiet population of doctors have been disenchanted with the current circumstances and remain effectively powerless against the Supreme Court. While representatives at the pressure group SaveNeetPG2012 are mounting an application to represent the medical issues to the court, other doctors have set up petitions to protest against the injustice meted upon them.

In 24 hours more than a thousand doctors signed this petition requesting that the government look into their plight [SaveNeetPG ] . Over the past week, they have hoped and prayed that the case is resolved. Sadly, these young doctors have watched by the way side while subjects like pornography and Bollywood superstars appear to have been given more priority. The ever endless waiting game has turned into a wicked game played out in the public eye.

You only have to read the petition [ Petition 1 and Petition 2 ] entries to understand the disaster caused by what can only be described as a bureaucratic nightmare. One doctor summarised their plight. He wrote

"Unemployed now because of the delay"

Another wrote

"I'm also amongst those unfortunate , unwanted helpless MBBS doctor who has given this NEET exam and since then every aspect of my life is on stand still"

One description of their reality was written on a blog post entitled Doldrums . He wrote

"Anyway, life of most medical students, including me, have entered the doldrums. I, for instance, appeared in an interview out of the frustration of waiting for the results. Although I supposedly cleared the interview, I never got the joining letter after the medical check-up.. ... Most other students have been asked to commit for 6 months or something to get a job, which they can't because of the delayed results.. So, no job, no results""

While these doctors' eyes remain glued to the NEET Updates , long term campaigner, Usha Mohan Das tweeted

"There is a lot happening ! Been having tons of meetings! Lawyers are busy following up our cases".

Their disenchantment, anger and frustration can be read on the hashtag #SaveNEETPG. It is simply illogical for the Supreme Court to freeze the careers of 90,000 doctors while they pontificate on the finer points of the law. There is no reason why the career progression of these doctors cannot be detached from this court case immediately. In the absence of dialogue from the current Health Minister, the Medical Council of India and officialdom, there appears to be no simple solution to this catastrophic predicament. This unacceptable and unjust situation will no doubt attract the scrutiny from the international medical community.

Our medical colleagues in India require our solidarity and support to raise awareness of these unjust set of circumstances that have befallen them due to no fault of their own. It is time the basic rights of doctors were recognised and valued by the public. Public confidence and more importantly, patient safety is paramount.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Martin Luther King.