Medical MSc teachers observe online protest movement against NMC guidelines
New Delhi: Faculties possessing medical MSc/PhD qualifications, under the banner of the National MSc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA) observed an online protest movement on Twitter recently.
They called it, "Anniversary of NMC's tyranny" against the new rules brought out by the NMC a year ago. Hashtags such as #BlackDay #OneYearOfNMCTyranny #OneYearNoJustice were used by the faculties as a mark of protest, with many sporting black bands around their arms.
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.
The draft released initially for public feedback by the NMC, after taking over MCI was along the lines of the latter. 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".
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.
Dismissing these grounds, Dr. Sridhar Rao, President of NMMTA 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. The shortages are more pronounced in the colleges that are located in the rural, suburbs, remote or hilly areas where the availability of medical teachers is generally poor.
"Introduction of the new MBBS curriculum shouldn't be a problem as all faculty are being trained on its implementation", he stated, adding that "the component of vertical or horizontal integration is limited to 20% of the syllabus, which can be taken by the medical faculty or by the MSc/PhD faculty in consultation with the medical faculties."
While rejecting a prior proposal to do away with the provision of appointing M.Sc/Ph.D teachers, the Board of Governors in supersession of the MCI in January 2020 had cited the shortage of medical teachers and stated, "..a complete phasing out of faculty with MSc-PhD from the teaching faculty after 3 years in the pre-medical sciences would create a closed system. It would preclude intellectual cross-fertilization which generates dynamism in teaching and research..".
Dr. Rao further stated "The NMC was aware of the faculty shortages and the implementation of the new curriculum when it released its draft guidelines. It was only after the lobbying by certain quarters that the NMC took a U-turn, which clearly shows that the motives behind the U-turn were neither the faculty availability nor the new curriculum".
The NMC guidelines were meant to be applicable to the new medical colleges starting batches 2020-21, colleges seeking MBBS seat enhancement, and all new faculty employments. The new rules led to the illegal termination of existing employees in a few colleges, especially in the Pharmacology and Microbiology disciplines.
"Those already in appointment can no longer switch jobs as they have been deemed ineligible for all new appointments. This would force them to stay put in the same place of work until they retire, resign, forced to resign. If one wants to relocate to any other college in the same city or another part of the country for professional or personal reasons, they can't. Those faculty who have been appointed on contract or tenure and now being jobless as after the end of the term they are being labeled as ineligible. This is causing acute joblessness", stated Mr. Arjun Maitra, Secretary NMMTA.
"Also, the assessors who visit the colleges to inspect harasses the faculties and try to impose their personal interpretation of the guidelines causing more misery to the MSc/Ph.D. faculties", he added.
Several writ petitions have been filed in the Delhi High Court, by various parties including NMMTA, faculties from Microbiology & Pharmacology, students pursuing medical M.Sc courses against the new NMC guidelines, which are currently being heard. An appeal has been filed with the union health ministry which is also under consideration.
The protest was held as many MSc/Ph.D. faculties have lost jobs and many more are likely to lose jobs as their tenure or contract ends. The Medical Dialogues had earlier reported the protest carried out this year by the non-medical teachers and MSc students in Janta Mantar under NMMTA against the sudden reduction in the percentage of non- MBBS teachers while demanding an immediate rollback of the new NMC guidelines regarding the appointment of medical M.Sc/Ph.D. teachers in medical colleges.