Students stuck in Ukraine didn’t have the Rs 1 crore needed to be a doctor in India – The Economic Times

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SynopsisThis difference in cost of becoming a doctor in India, or in countries such as Ukraine, can easily be Rs 70-80 lakh, explaining why so many students are now stuck in Ukraine.

Seema Gandhi counsels students who are likely to meet the NEET cutoff but won’t get admission in government-run medical colleges. An aspirant can then look towards a cost of over Rs 1 crore in fees in, say, a privately-owned college such as D Y Patil Medical College, Pune.

Gandhi, who has been in the business of education placements for 12 years, says many students, faced with the steep fees, will give up their dream of becoming a doctor despite making the cut in hyper-competitive National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET. Scores will get duped by agents who promise them a seat in a government college with payoffs of Rs 15-30 lakh.
“I see many cases every year,” she says.

Gandhi’s business is to find solutions by placing students in countries as diverse as Russia and Philippines, even Bangladesh, where the cost of becoming a doctor is less. This difference in cost of becoming a doctor in India, or in countries such as Ukraine, can easily be Rs 70-80 lakh, explaining why so many students are now stuck in Ukraine.

PM’s medical colleges inauguration
In October, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated seven medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh. This was a drop in the ocean, though; all put together will add a mere 700 medical seats in a country with 1 doctor per 1,445 people.
In a pandemic, this shortage of doctors can, and did, cost lives.

No correct estimate of number of undergraduate medical seats exists in the country. Most rough estimates are put out by coaching institutes. Gandhi estimates that roughly 40,000 undergraduate seats are in government colleges which offer subsidized medical education. Here, often the fee is below Rs 1 lakh for the entire MBBS course of five years.


ET Online

The remaining 60,000 seats in India are in private colleges and deemed universities. These institutes charge an annual fee of between Rs 18 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. For a five-year course, that works out to a cost between Rs 90 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

Coaching cost, and suicides
This is not all. In high-stakes NEET, where over 16,00,000 aspirants will compete for 1,00,000 seats, aspirants need coaching to make the cut. The Justice A K Ranjan Committee, set up by the Tamil Nadu government to study if students in English-medium schools have an advantage, found that they did. The committee, which gave its report in September this year, says seats are going to affluent students with the cost of coaching a whopping Rs 10 lakh per individual.

The Tamil Nadu government’s probe was prompted by teen suicides in the state as medical aspirants from low-income homes, feeling hopeless, killed themselves.

Woeful infrastructure
While on the one hand aspirants are ending their lives, reasonably sure they will not be able to fulfill their dream of donning a white coat, successive governments have been unable, or unwilling to add to spending on health — which includes opening new colleges to create a pipeline of doctors and adding beds — leaving the average citizen vulnerable to disease.

Not just the horrific Covid shortages in April, on September 13 this year, The Times of India reported at least 12,000 people bedridden in Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad, with a dengue outbreak that had the district in its grip. More than 100 died, 88 among them children.
The country watched viral videos of poor parents falling at the feet of administrators to save their children.
People scrambled for beds and doctors, and patient care cost at private hospitals skyrocketed. A daily wager, who lost his 5-year-old son to the fever, told the newspaper a private hospital asked him for Rs 30,000 to start treatment.

The World Heath Organisation ranks India at 184 out of 191 countries in health spending. Oxfam India’s report for 2020 put India at 155th position with Afghanistan. Both countries allocate less than 4% of their budget to health.

Exodus of students
Other countries benefit when India becomes too costly for medical education. Apart from Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan being favourite destinations for medical students from India, Philippines, and now Bangladesh have emerged as meccas for medical aspirants.
A Bangladesh ‘package’ costs a student Rs 25 lakh to Rs 40 lakh; in Philippines a medical student can complete an MBBS course for Rs 35 lakh and in Russia an aspirant can become a doctor for Rs 20 lakh, hostel included. “Deserving candidates are going abroad,” says Gandhi.
(Originally published on Mar 01, 2022, 12:29 PM IST)

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