January 30, 2011

MCI, Health Ministry on war path

The Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India and the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry seem to be heading for a showdown with the former refusing to withdraw the two notifications for holding common entrance tests for graduate and post-graduate courses in medicine.

The Ministry on Monday declared the notifications “invalid” and directed the MCI to withdraw them immediately as no mandatory approval was taken from the Ministry as required under Section 33 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 2010. However, the MCI Board, which held an emergency meeting on Tuesday, decided to go ahead with the two National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Tests (NEET) since these were issued on the Supreme Court directions and their withdrawal will amount to contempt of court. “The Common Entrance Tests (CET) will happen,” a Board member told The Hindu.

The Centre had asked the MCI to put “on the hold” the proposal following stiff opposition from several States, including Tamil Nadu, where no test is held for admission to the MBBS courses. Several private institutions and the Tamil Nadu government had moved the court against the NEET. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Karunanidhi had even spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressing his displeasure over the MCI's move, following which the proposal was kept “in abeyance.”

The Supreme Court, in its order last month, said it would not come in the way of notifying the common entrance test or anyone moving the court against it. Soon after, the Ministry decided to hold a meeting of the State Health Ministers and secretaries in Hyderabad between January 11 and 13 to arrive at a wider consensus since health and education are State-subjects. This was conveyed to the MCI as well.

The meeting will be chaired by the Ministry. The MCI went ahead and issued the two notifications on December 21. Strangely, the Ministry officials were unaware of the notifications until it was reported in the newspapers on Monday after which they issued directive to the MCI asking them to withdraw them immediately.

The CET is aimed at reducing the stress on the students aspiring to join medicine who at present have to write 17 tests for admission to medical colleges. Under the NEET, students would have to write only one test and the selection would be done on the basis of merit with reservations as applicable to the States. Private colleges would also get some seats.

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