Health Ministry overturns NMC decision for Medical MScs
New Delhi: Providing major relief to the non-medical teachers with medical MSc/Ph.D. qualifications, the Union Health Ministry has altered the National Medical Commission's decision and has decided the apex medical regulator to follow the erstwhile Medical Council of India's rules for appointing non-medical teachers. With this, non-medical teachers will be able to join as faculties...
New Delhi: Providing major relief to the non-medical teachers with medical MSc/Ph.D. qualifications, the Union Health Ministry has altered the National Medical Commission's decision and has decided the apex medical regulator to follow the erstwhile Medical Council of India's rules for appointing non-medical teachers.
With this, non-medical teachers will be able to join as faculties in five non-clinical specialties to 30% extent (50% for biochemistry) of the total number of faculties- like older rules of MCI.
The confirmation regarding this came in an order dated 03.01.2022, where the Central Government while considering an appeal of the National M.Sc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA) mentioned, "The documents and submission made by the appellant have been considered by Central Government and is of a considered view that the NMC may continue to adopt the old pattern of permissible percentage of non medical teachers for the time being subject to outcome of the pending court case."
The issue concerns the appointment of non-medical teachers in non-clinical medical specialties. According to the erstwhile Medical Council of India's Teachers Eligibility and Qualification Guidelines, candidates with medical M.Sc/Ph.d qualifications could be appointed as teachers in five non-clinical specialities to 30% extent (50% for biochemistry) of the total faculty strength.
Back in 2020, after NMC took over MCI, it had released a draft regarding Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS admissions Regulations, 2020. The draft which was released initially for public feedback was along the lines of MCI norms. However, the finalized notification released through a gazetted notification on October 2020 halved the permissible percentage to 15% in Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry and completely removed for Pharmocology and Microbiology disciplines, which affected the Medical M.Sc/Ph.d community.
The qualifications of Medical M.Sc were recognized by the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI) for faculty positions in the five non-clinical disciplines of undergraduate medical education. Serial No.2 of the schedule I In the MCI's Teachers Eligibility and Qualifications guidelines had stated, "In the departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Microbiology, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 30% of the total number of the posts in the department".
"However, in the department of Biochemistry, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 50% of the total number of posts in the department. In case of the paucity of teachers in non-clinical departments relaxation upto the Head of the Department may be given by the appointing authority to the nonmedical persons if suitable medical teacher in the particular non-clinical speciality is not available for the said appointment," the MCI regulations had mentioned.
On the other hand, the gazetted notification on 28th October 2020 by NMC stated, "In the department of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, non-medical teachers may be appointed to the extent of 15%of the total number of posts in the department subject to non-availability of medical teachers". This resulted in a 65% reduction in Biochemistry, 50% in Anatomy and physiology, and 100% in Microbiology and Pharmacology. The reasons for such a move are thought to be the availability of sufficient medical teachers and the introduction of the new MBBS curriculum.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the amendments brought by NMC were heavily criticized by non-medical teachers and students pursuing MSc courses. Demanding immediate rollback of the guidelines, teachers and students had converged at Jantar Mantar under the banner of the National M.Sc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA) as a part of the nation-wide protest against the sudden reduction in the percentage of non-MBBS teachers. Raising slogans denouncing NMC, the teachers and students had sought Health Ministry's intervention in the matter.
Earlier, Dr. Sridhar Rao, President of NMMTA had stated that while there has been an increase in the MD seats in the non-clinical subjects, 40-50% of them remain vacant each year, which would only mean that the faculty shortage is likely to continue.
In fact, the agitated members had also submitted a memorandum to the Health Ministry seeking a rollback of the guidelines along with the fulfilment of many other demands. NMMTA had approached NMC in an appeal on 28.02.2021 under the provisions of the NMC Act, 2019. However, NMC in a letter dated 26.07.2021 had informed the association that the appeal was disposed off subject to the pending case in Delhi High Court. The apex medical regulator had also indicated that and appeal could be filed to Central Government under section 9(6) of NMC Act, 2019 against the decision of NMC.
Following this, Dr. Sridhar Rao, the president of the association had approached the Central Government in an appeal dated 07.09.2021 under section 9(6) of the NMC Act. He had pointed out how reducing the number of non-medical teachers is an arbitrary decision. The second appeal responded to the second appeal in favour of the association and restored the previous MCI norms.
"The appellant submitted that the reduction in the appointment of non-medical teachers in the departments mentioned is arbitrary, discriminatory and violation of the rights of the members of the Appellant association. Thus, reduction of the number of non-medical teachers that can be appointed in the departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Pharmacology is ultra vires to the Constitution and also at loggerheads with the objects of the National Medical Commission Act, 2019," the Union Health Ministry mentioned in the order dated 03.01.2022.
"Further, it would be detrimental to the qualitative and quantitative growth of medical education in India. Hence, the percentage of non-medical teachers that can be appointed in Medical Colleges be retained as per the IMC regulations," read the order.
"The documents and submission made by the appellant have been considered by Central Government and is of a considered view that the NMC may continue to adopt the old pattern of permissible percentage of non-medical teachers for the time being subject to outcome of the pending court case," it added.
While commenting on the Central Government's recent order, Dr. Sridhar Rao, President of NMMTA said, "When the draft notification was published, the NMC was fully aware of the faculty shortages in medical colleges. In fact, in January 2020, the Board of Governors in supersession of the MCI had categorically stated that owing to continued shortage of medically qualified teachers, appointment of 'non-medical' teachers should not be stopped. Despite the fact that there has been an increase in the MD seats in the non-clinical subjects, 40-50% of them remained vacant year. Therefore, such faculty shortages would naturally continue in the future. The new competency based curriculum was introduced in 2019 by the MCI. When the NMC released the draft guidelines retaining the MCI's percentages, it was already aware of the faculty shortages and the new curriculum, therefore, it is obvious to us that these were never the actual reasons behind the reduction in permissible percentages of 'non-medical' teachers but were mere afterthoughts put forth simply to justify its actions. The lobbying by certain quarters for monopoly in teaching jobs by ousting the competition was the apparent reason."
"This appeal was vital for our survival. Although it was stated that the new guidelines would not affect the existing 'non-medical' teachers, the contrary was happening on the ground", he added.
Terming this to be humanitarian crisis, he also mentioned, "A few existing faculty were wrongly terminated citing the new guidelines. Those from Pharmacology and Microbiology were the worst affected; their eligibility to work henceforth was withdrawn overnight as they were rendered ineligible to apply for teaching position anywhere in India. Neither could they shift jobs. Those who were appointed on contract suffered the most; their contract could not be renewed as their eligibility was removed. This was a humanitarian crisis."
"The NMC guidelines had far-fetched effects than what the NMC officials possibly anticipated. It not only snatched some of ours right to livelihood, but also took our away the right to work with dignity. The option to relocate to another college, city or state was arbitrarily removed and the faculties in Microbiology and Pharmacology were forced to stay put in the same medical college until retirement. This is gross injustice. Not only did the new guidelines rendered several existing faculties jobless, scores of students who had passed out from their medical M.Sc courses found themselves ineligible to apply for tutor posts", said Dr. Arjun Maitra, General Secretary of NMMTA.
"We are thankful to the government for reinstating the previous MCI norms. Injustice that was done to us has been reversed. The faculties and the students who are undertaking Medical M.Sc courses are indebted to the government for taking the right decision, which is in the best interest of all concerned stakeholders" said Dr. Rao expressing gratefulness.
"With the ministry having restored justice, we are expecting the same from the Delhi High Court", he added.
Meanwhile, the petition filed by NMMTA before the Delhi High Court has been clubbed together with similar petitions filed by other associations and individuals and they are being heard jointly.
To view the central government's order, click on the link below.