Friday, May 27, 2016

Supreme Court refuses to stay President's NEET ordinance

The Supreme Court on Friday quashed a plea asking the court to stay the President's ordinance that allowed states to have their own medical entrance examinations. 

That means, for now, states can go ahead with their own separate medical examinations and they don't have to use the single National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) results for admitting students. 

The apex court said staying the NEET ordinance would create further confusion in the minds of students. 

"Lets us not create further confusion on entrance examination and let students appear for test with certain amount of certainty... We will hear plea after the vacation," the court said. 

President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday signed an order that allows state boards to skip NEET for a year. The ordinance - or executive order - cleared by the Cabinet last week, was aimed at "partially" overturning a Supreme Court order. 

The top court ruled last month that NEET would be the only test for admission to medical courses in India. It turned down an appeal by several states who wanted to hold their own separate medical entrance exams. The top court order said all government colleges, deemed universities and private medical colleges would have to use NEET's results and not their own entrance exam results for admission. 

The petition to stay that ordinance was filed by Anand Rai, the whistle-blower of the Vyapam scam. The petitioner alleged that the ordinance frustrated the order of the top court that has directed implementation of NEET from the current academic year.

Rai said that the ordinance completely contradicts the Centre's stand before the top court. The Centre had backed the implementation of a single test for admission in MBBS/BDS courses in all medical colleges. 

He said the Centre batted for NEET when the matter was being adjudicated before the SC, but did a U-turn on the issue and took the ordinance route to frustrate the court's order and defer implementation of common entrance examination.

The SC had ruled that admission to MBBS/BDS courses would be conducted only through NEET. It scrapped the entrance tests by various state governments and private medical colleges.

NEET Ordinance compounds problems for medical aspirants in Telangana & Andhra

Representational image. PTI
The latest Ordinance on the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) by the government hasn’t actually resolved the confusion over the admission process to medical seats in various institutions in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Thousands of students and their parents in the two states are keeping their fingers crossed, as the medical seat aspirants are now compelled to take NEET-2 and also the medical entrance tests conducted by the respective states.
What is NEET-2?
The first phase of NEET was conducted on 1 May, by which time the Supreme Court had not provided clarity on the objections raised by different states. Considering the requests from several states, the union government promulgated an ordinance exempting the states from filling the state quota of seats in government and private medical colleges for this academic year.
Therefore, another NEET-2 exam was scheduled for 24 July. The students aspiring to join the medical courses under management quota and NRI quota in private medical colleges will have to essentially appear for the NEET-2.
The governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have made it clear that the merit seats (EAMCET convener’s quota) in private medical colleges would be filled only from the ranks of EAMCET (common entrance test) of the respective states. Accordingly, 825 seats in the convener quota in AP and 725 seats in Telangana will be filled through EAMCET ranks.
While AP has already completed the conducting of EAMCET and announced the ranks of medical stream of students also, Telangana will conduct EAMCET (medical stream) on 9 July. A notification to this effect was issued.
Private medical seats
There are 22 private medical colleges in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana combined. While 50 percent of the seats were filled through merit in both states under the quota of respective EAMCET conveners, the managements of these private medical colleges used to fill 35 per cent of seats through special entrance test. The remaining 15 per cent of seats earmarked for NRI (non-resident Indians) quota are filled by the respective college managements at their discretion.
A deemed medical university and one minority medical college in AP and two minority medical colleges in Telangana have so far been filling the seats using their own discretion. They are outside the ambit of EAMCET or the entrance test conducted by private medical colleges.
Now, these 2,100 seats – management quota seats in private medical colleges and seats in minority institutions and deemed universities – will have to be filled from the merit lists of NEET.
In all, there are medical seats 2,600 seats in Telangana and 3,500 seats in Andhra Pradesh.
The private managements are contending that the NEET Ordinance had no specific mention of the NRI quota. Therefore, they would be filled at the discretion of the managements only. Neither the government nor the courts have clarified the position on this.
Students who secured good ranks for which seats are assured in the regular process (over 2,200) in AP would not take the test, though, says Kamineni Srinivas, Minister for Medical & Health, Government of Andhra Pradesh.
But all students in Telangana will be forced to take both NEET and EAMCET.
Crash courses
Meanwhile, the private residential colleges and coaching centres in both states have introduced crash courses for NEET as students are unfamiliar with the pattern. The fee is ranging between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 30,000 for the next six weeks.
Executive Dean of Sri Chaitanya Educational Institutions V Kumar told Firspost that the private residential colleges (coaching centres) were, in fact, imparting training to students appearing for NEET for the last three years. However, with the current situation forcing the students to take NEET for admission into private medical colleges, the crash courses were introduced.
Along with Sri Chaitanya, another chain of institutions that impart NEET crash course is Narayana Group, which is promoted by Minister for Municipal Administration in AP Government Dr P Narayana.
Kumar said that this clarity of NEET should have been provided in December or January so that the students would have prepared accordingly and there would not have been any confusion. However, now the students are under pressure to take the two examinations of two different patterns. Naturally students would be under pressure during examination season and this has compounded it.
The format of the private medical colleges’ entrance test, which was now done away with, was actually identical to EAMCET, he says. One saving grace is that the NEET merit lists are given in two formats. One is the national merit list and the other is the merit list of the respective states. This has eliminated external competition, according to him.
Pradeep, a doctor himself and a parent of medical seat aspirant, says that the governments have been experimenting with these entrance examinations for decades and how many times “we haven’t seen these examinations getting embroiled in controversies and caused confusion.” There is no scientific approach and students suffer because of this year after year.

Docs in govt hospitals to retire at 65

Narendra Modi, Narendra Modi government, Modi government, Two years of Modi government, Modi govt, Modi doctors retirement

Citing shortage of doctors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced raising the age of retirement of government doctors to 65 years and said the Union Cabinet will give its nod to the decision this week.

In a rally to observe the second anniversary of his government, Modi said there is a need for more doctors across the country but it was not possible to fill the gap in two years of his government.

The decision will cover all government doctors whether serving under states or the central dispensation, he said.

"There is a shortage of doctors. In government hospitals, their retirement is 60 years in some states, 62 in some others. If adequate number of medical institutes were there, then we would have more doctors and would not feel the shortage. It is difficult to make doctors in two years but poor families cannot be forced to live without doctors.

"Therefore from Uttar Pradesh, I want to announce this to my countrymen that this week our governments Cabinet will take a decision and the retirement age of our doctors, whether in states or government of India, would be made 65 years instead of 60 or 62," he said.

It will allow doctors to serve patients and provide education for a longer period, he said, adding that his government is also working fast to have more medical colleges to have more doctors in the field.

Modis announcement came after he appealed to doctors to serve poor pregnant women for free on each ninth day of every month, saying it will contribute to his governments efforts to deal with illness among the poor.

If one crore families can give up on LPG subsidy, then Modi said he is sure that doctors can serve poor expectant women for 12 days in a year, he said.

NEET ordinance gets its first challenge in court

A petition challenging the Centre’s decision to promulgate the NEET ordinance has been filed by health activist Anand Rai. Photo: Mint
The ordinance that deferred by a year the Supreme Court order to conduct the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) from 2016 is back in court.
Health activist Anand Rai, known for exposing the Vyapam scam—an admission and recruitment scandal in Madhya Pradesh—on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the centre’s decision to promulgate the ordinance.
The petition that sought the quashing of the ordinance questioned the centre’s flip-flop on the issue. The centre had initially accepted the apex court’s order and later partially reversed it through the ordinance.
The centre’s decision was in violation of Section 14 (right to equality), Section 21 (right to life) in terms of its arbitrary character and with regards to the students who would suffer irreparably because of the constantly changing stand by the centre, the petition stated.
The petitioner said various associations across the country have to be treated with equality under law and administrative authority should be exercised to assure a degree of fair decision-making. The centre had given an undertaking and fulfilled criteria for a unified NEET, and yet within four weeks, it passed the ordinance, the petition said, calling the ordinance “arbitrary”.
“This would go on to show mala fide and ill intent towards the admission of students who will ultimately suffer because of this see-saw approach by the centre,” the petition stated.
Rai also pointed to corruption in state entrance exams as a major reason to question the centre’s stand. “NEET should be implemented for all medical colleges from this year itself. State medical examinations are a source of immense corruption, which is evident from the Vyapam scam,” said Rai.
He said that the state entrance tests are usually rigged and are often conducted again. “We need one standard entrance and ensure that it is conducted free and fair,” Rai added.
On states’ concerns over the lack of provision for taking the test in regional languages in NEET, Rai said that medical education is essentially imparted in the English language.
“The Medical Council of India, which regulates medical education, says that a first division in English is compulsory for MBBS. Also, when states do not have issues with engineering or law entrance examinations, then why on the medical entrance?” asked Rai.
Legal experts, however, say that the centre is within its rights to exempt states from NEET for one year. “NEET was scheduled to be held under a central Act, which was upheld by the court holding that it should be implemented this year itself. Personally, I think that if the centre, through an ordinance, wishes to hold the exam after a year, it is within their rights. The centre can take a stand on whether it wants to hold the exam this year or after a year; such a decision is within their realm,” said senior advocate Jayant Bhushan.
Students, though, want clarity on the issue at the earliest.
“The most important thing now is to know whether it is only NEET or not. Performance of many students has suffered because of the lack of clarity,” said Ameya Suri, a student from Mumbai who appeared for NEET that was conducted on 1 May.
Meanwhile, Sankalp Charitable Trust, on whose public interest litigation the apex court passed the order, also said that it is preparing to file a petition challenging the ordinance.
A date on hearing in the case is yet to be decided.

NEET— why the ordinance is important for AP, Telangana

Engineering and medicine have always held high career aspirations for students and big business stakes for private colleges in the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. With less number of seats and colleges, medicine ends up becoming more competitive and pricey.
More than two lakh engineers and 6,000 medical graduates are churned out annually from these states. Many of the engineering students knock at higher studies in the US or flood the IT market in the country. Medical graduates too look for greener pastures abroad or rough it out in the corporate hospitals or private nursing homes.
This has led to a proliferation of private engineering and medical/dental colleges in the states. A good number of these are owned and run by political leaders from all mainline parties, leading corporates/trusts and educationists.
Relief to many
In this background, it should not be a surprise that the Presidential ordinance keeping at bay the implementation of NEET (The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test), brought major relief to students and management of private colleges and resulted in credit taking by political leaders.
The latest developments imply that the students from the Telangana have to write two tests – Eamcet and NEET – their counterparts in AP have completed Eamcet and have to take the NEET exam slated for July 24. State government-run medical colleges are exempted from the Supreme Court mandated NEET exam for this year with the ordnance.
Capitation fee
If NEET becomes mandatory, private medical colleges stand the risk of losing their hold on filling up seats in the management and NRI quota, which run up to more than 30 per cent.
So far, private medical colleges in both AP and Telangana managed discretion and questionable methods to fill up seats thereby ensuring that over 90 per cent of the students ended up from the two states. Similar was the case with NRI quota, wherein students from the US, the UK or Middle East, belonging to these states filled up.
As and when NEET kicks in, the merit in the all-India common entrance exam will determine the basis for selection. It would also mean that students from other states could get admitted in the private colleges in these states.
This, in short, will curtail the freedom and scope of managements to fix the annual fee structure, capitation fee etc. In addition, it is common knowledge that the managements are able to tweak the admission procedures in a manner that helps them ‘pick and choose’ some candidates willing to pay hefty capitation fees. Unofficial estimates quote as high a figure of 50 lakh to 75 lakh in some of the top corporate-run medical colleges in Hyderabad.
Fee structure
According to information available, a private medical college in Telangana charges 9 lakh per annum for a student admitted under management quota, while its 11 lakh in AP. This again will be different for NRI quota students. The fee structure also varies in different states.
If you look at the medical education scenario in the two states — AP has a total of 27 colleges of which 12 are government-run and the number of seats on offer are around 3,750.
In Telangana, the total is 20 of which the government-owned are just 5 and the number of seats is 2,300. The competition, however, is extremely high with over a couple of lakh students writing the tests.
Well-known names
Several top corporates like the Apollo Hospitals Group, Kamineni, Mediciti, Deccan College, Malla Reddy in Telangana and Gitam, Narayana (owned by P Narayana a Cabinet Minister in Naidu’s govt) and NRI group in AP along with several Trusts floated by corporates, educationists etc., run the private medical/dental colleges. In addition, dozens of well-known institutes like Narayana Education Society, Chaitanya, Vigyan, Gayathri, Vision 40 specialise in coaching students to competitive exams.
It was no wonder that the State Minister for HR in the AP government, Ganta Srinivas, claimed at a press conference that Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had played a key role in getting the ‘breather’ for students and private college managements from NEET this year.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Resident doctors in government hospitals on strike over salaries, allowances

Doctors in government hospitals in Delhi went on a token strike on Thursday demanding revision of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and an increase in their salaries and allowances. They also threatened to go on an indefinite strike from June 1 if their demands are not met.

“If our demands are not fulfilled even after that, we will go on indefinite strike from June 1,” said Dr Narayan Dabas, convenor, Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA).
FORDA, an umbrella organisation of 15,000 resident doctors across 41 government hospitals in the national capital, is demanding an increase in the Non-Practising Allowance (NPA) to 40 percent from the existing 25 percent. In the 7th Pay Commission recommendations it has been reduced to 20 percent.
“The basic pay and NPA were merged together while calculating House Rental Allowance (HRA) earlier, but this has now been omitted and HRA will be calculated only with basic pay resulting in less than the desired salary,” said Dr Pankaj Solanki, president, FORDA.
FORDA also demanded uniform pay scales, night shift allowances, which currently exist for nursing staff in government hospitals, and formulation of a uniform central residency scheme for resident doctors of India. 

Striking Delhi doctors say they work 100 hours a week

The massive strike of resident doctors from 20 Delhi and Central government hospitals crippling public healthcare in New Delhi could get worse. Ditching their reconciliatory tone, the Delhi government imposed the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), which could lead to nearly 20,000 striking doctors losing their jobs.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who on Monday had said that the doctors' demands were "genuine", on Tuesday tweeted that "causing inconvenience to public is wrong. We have been forced to invoke ESMA. If they still don't return, then in public interests, we will be left with no option but to take harsh steps."

Though the Delhi government said it agreed with the demands, the resident doctors, under the banner of Federation of Resident Doctors Association were in no mood to relent. Members of FORDA, which has 25 government hospitals under its ambit, said that the strike will only spread, shortly AIIMS resident doctors will join in, and then resident doctors from other states.

"We don't want token reassurance," said Dr Balvinder Singh of Safdarjung Hospital, "we got them when we went on strike in February by the Delhi government, the Union health ministry and the MCD."

This time FORDA is holding out for concrete action. They have asked for better working hours for resident doctors, a proper supply of lifesaving drugs in the hospitals and crucially security for doctors.

Singh says that according to the Supreme Court stipulation, one cannot work more that 48 hours a week. Yet resident doctors routinely work around a 100 hours in one week. A regular day sees them on the rounds from 7 or 8am till 8pm. In emergencies, they clock in 36 hours, and return to duty the following morning.

FORDA has asked more seats be created so as to recruit more doctors. According to Singh, the Union health ministry had moved files on this issue but then told FORDA they were lost.

Dr Tarun Arora, the president of the Resident Doctors Association in AIIMS said that was a serious crisis in public healthcare not only in Delhi but in the country. Though AIIMS is not on strike, if push comes to shove and the government does not act, Arora said that they would support FORDA.

He recounted how doctors regularly fall short of life-saving drugs and basics such as gloves and syringes. Though he says that AIIMS is slightly better off than other hospitals, doctors in government hospitals have to tell their patients' attendants to make multiple trips to pharmacies outside hospital premises to buy drugs and equipment. "The patients get frustrated and angry, they think that doctors are making a cut by sending them to outside pharmacies. But what is the doctor supposed to do?"
Both Singh and Arora say that a resident doctors see hundreds of people in one day, often alone or in twos, which angers patients and their families, as each want to be looked at first.

In the past year, there has been a spate of news reports of doctors beaten up by emotionally charged attendants, across the country -- Pune, Panvel, Allahabad and Kanpur, where resident doctors were beaten up by the Kanpur police allegedly at the behest of Samajwadi Party MLA Irfan Solanki.

"This is why there is a high probability the strike could spread to other states," said Arora. According to Singh, FORDA president Dr Panjak Solanki was already in talks with resident doctors from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab for starters.

"But we hope everything will be solved in a couple of days. Doctors don't want to actually keep patients suffering," Arora Added.

FORDA representatives were in a meeting with the Union Health Secretary till late Tuesday evening, which will decide what happens in the coming few days.

NEET Ordinance 2016 Gazette Notification

Promulgated by the President of India on 24th May 2016.