I wish to state the following facts to correct the misperceptions which may arise as a result of reading the accompanying editorial and the article in The Hindu (Op-Ed, “A hatchet job, NEETly done,” July 20, 2013) and explain why the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore is different.

CMC is an unaided non-capitation minority educational institution. CMC does not have any NRI quota and the tuition fees charged for its undergraduate medical courses have been maintained at Rs.3,000 per annum for the last several years and the postgraduate courses at Rs.400 per annum, which is much lower than the fees charged even by government medical colleges. This is possible because education in the college is subsidised by the income received from the hospital. The method of selection of candidates for the medical courses in CMC satisfies the Triple Test laid down by the Supreme Court in various judgments, viz., transparency, merit and non-exploitative.

We believe merit cannot be defined by marks and marks alone, nor is it all-sufficient in the formation of a doctor. NEET was proposed to be a panacea for all that ails medical education in India. But its true impact may have been different. Hospitals throughout India would have faced a shortage of junior doctors and house officers who would be preoccupied with the prospect and preparation for a difficult, single-window national exam, with no weightage for work or bedside skills.

Entrance exams without testing practical skills would change the view of young graduates of medicine from a professional, clinically proficient, humane field of enterprise to one in which the goal is to memorise obscure theoretical minutiae to maximise marks. Those unable to make it to the NEET merit list would have chased and chosen overseas options which appear easier in comparison. The allotment of candidates to non-native States would only leave the State health system poorer of their own native doctors. Permanence and long-term commitment to native States would suffer. Undoubtedly, the strong urban bias that undergirds NEET would completely wipe away the prospects of students in towns and villages who have no access to upmarket schools and coaching centres.

With merit candidates likely to pursue academic careers or overseas options, the government’s own primary health care and rural health initiatives would find itself depleted of manpower. In other words, NEET would have paved the way for selecting candidates whose abilities are strong in abstract theory than in clinically relevant skills which are vital for humane patient care. The medical need gap would only have got bigger. The Medical Council of India (MCI) and Ministry of Health need to do more research to study this problem before implementing a workable solution.

(Dr. Sunil Chandy is Director, CMC Vellore.)

Arun Mohan Sukumar responds:

Christian Medical College & Hospital, Vellore, an institution I respect, was among 115 petitioners before the Supreme Court, adducing exactly the same legal arguments as other private medical colleges. CMC may have its own, compelling reasons to stay away from NEET. I simply chose to highlight the impact of the Court’s disappointing verdict on students, and the unbridled autonomy it offers to private medical colleges. To suggest CMC will be viewed as representative of all such institutes, even those who indulge in unethical admission practices, goes against the grain of my piece.

arun.sukumar@thehindu.co.in

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