States offer help to medicos from Ukraine; how feasible are the plans?
From seats in private colleges to fee waivers, various states are trying to accommodate those whose studies have been disrupted, but there is little clarity on how these will be implemented
Barring the tragic death of one, all Indian students have been evacuated from war-torn Ukraine, and are back home safe. The elephant in the room now is what will happen to their education. A good majority of them are medical students, so finishing their course online is not much of a choice, since practical classes are crucial.
In this backdrop, both the Centre and state governments have offered assurances that the students will not be left in the lurch, that the completion of their education will be facilitated. However, there is very little clarity yet on how exactly this will be accomplished.
The Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala and Karnataka governments have pleaded with the Union government to accommodate the students in Indian medical colleges. But that’s a solution riddled with problems. There is the question of which colleges will accommodate them, considering they are full already. And there are legal angles to consider, since there are students who did better than the Ukraine returnees at NEET, and yet did not get a seat.
A large number of students who left China due to the lockdowns are yet to return, so they may demand similar treatment, too.
Telangana, Karnataka make promises
Various state governments, meanwhile, have been making promises to their respective students. The Telangana government said it will bear the educational expenses of over 700 students who’ve returned home to enable them to complete their medical education in India. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao told the Assembly his government will write to the Centre about this.
The Karnataka government similarly promised to help around 700 medical students who returned to the state from Ukraine. The announcement was made following a meeting between Health and Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar and the students at the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Monday. The students will not be officially absorbed into colleges, but no additional fee will be charged from them either, the minister said.
Sudhakar said a committee has been formed comprising the principal secretary of the medical education department, director of medical education and RGUHS VC, among others. It will study various ways to rehabilitate the students. Based on the report, the state will request the Centre and the National Medical Council to take necessary measures.
“We are all hopeful that the war will come to an end soon. We have to watch the developments in Ukraine and make an appropriate decision based on the situation. We will also have to take the best possible decision within the existing legal and regulatory framework,” he said.
The minister added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already initiated several measures to protect the future of the students and bolster the country’s medical education system.
Call for careful approach
However, experts have suggested that any move to support the students should be approached carefully.
Dr Rohan Krishnan, president of the Federation of Indian Medical Association (FAIMA), a grouping of resident doctors’ associations in institutes across the country, said: “You have to accommodate the students in a legalised manner with a proper roadmap. The quality of medical education cannot go down at any cost. This is the stand of our association from the very beginning.
“When you see the working of a medical college in India, it is synchronised and dedicated towards patient care and teaching is done mainly by the bedside. “You have to have infrastructure, a number of patients as well as number of teachers equivalent to the number of students.”
“If you attach someone without the proper infrastructure, without the number of teachers, it has to be catastrophic because it makes no sense,” Krishnan said.
Students who only recently began their medical education could be asked to appear for NEET undergraduate examinations and given grace marks for their academic experience, he suggested. “For students in senior years, if they have completed the duration of the course and if they appear and qualify for FMGE, I think they have proved their worth.”
Mamata offers support
In West Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government has also promised to help all 391 Ukraine-returned medical and engineering students and promised to bear half of the educational expenses.
It has approached the National Medical Commission to facilitate the medical students to get admission in colleges in the state without clearing NEET-UG. The government has requested the commission to allot extra seats in colleges as a special case.
The government plans to offer internships in state-run medical colleges and hospitals to those who were in the fourth, fifth and sixth year of their MBBS courses in Ukraine.
Those pursuing engineering courses in Ukraine will be allowed to complete their B. Tech from private colleges in the state. For the necessary approval, the government has approached the All India Council of Technical Education, which oversees engineering education in the country.
Furthermore, the state government has promised to cover their educational expenses.
Clinical and practical classes a must
The Tamil Nadu government has also stated it will ensure the students’ education does not suffer. Again, there is no concrete plan yet on how this will be accomplished. In Chennai, Dr GR Ravindranath, general secretary, Doctors’ Association for Social Equality, said as far as medical education is considered, clinical and practical classes are a must. “The students have to see patients and clinical interaction is mandatory – in the absence of which the quality of education would be affected and no medical council would accept it,” he said.
Dr Ravindranath said in the current situation, it would be helpful to the students if the central government intervened and provided them seats in private medical institutions.
“At the same time, the government should also ensure that the fees at the private institutions are on par with the Ukraine universities. Because, in Ukraine a student can complete his/her studies for ₹25 to ₹30 lakh. But here, they might have to spend up to a crore. It would be unfair to ask for seats in government institutions because students who entered colleges on merit basis might oppose it.”
Dr Ravindranath said the government could also speak to countries like Russia and Poland and arrange the students to continue their studies there. “As medical science is a global science, there won’t be much of a difference in the syllabus.”
(With inputs from Ajay Sukumaran, Nivedha Selvam and Samir K Purkayastha)