When recently an MBBS from Tajik State Medical University in Tajikistan was caught using a proxy to clear Foreign Medical Graduates Examination to enrol as a doctor, it made a telling commentary as to why the health system was ailing in India. The candidate who had failed six times in a row had almost got away with it, but was apprehended when the face detection system flagged the difference in the photograph of the exam writer, who got a huge sum in lieu of impersonation, and the candidate.
This was akin to the infamous multi crore Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal scandal known as ‘Vyapam scam’ in which the CBI found that the accused candidates had adopted a unique engine-bogie system in the exam by engaging intelligent students (engines) as solver candidates for allowing copying of their answers by the beneficiaries (bogies), who would sit behind them. The CBI had taken over investigation following the Supreme Court order and it exposed the politicians, senior officials and businessmen nexus and has so far charge sheeted over 1200 accused, of which 55 have died in mysterious circumstances.
Tehelka decided to investigate the matter in view of the enormity of allegations. Investigation by our Special Investigation Team revealed how middlemen helped candidates cheat and clear the FMGE, a screening test for Indians with medical degrees from foreign varsities. But worryingly even those who fail the test are surreptitiously hired by hospitals leaving the quality of healthcare in India under a cloud. Resultantly the ‘fake doctors’ were putting human lives in danger.
The National Board of Examinations (NBE), an autonomous body under the Union ministry of health, conducts Foreign Medical Graduate Examination, which is a licentiate examination for Indian or overseas citizens who have completed primary medical qualification from other countries. Foreign medical graduates need to qualify FMGE to get registered with the Indian Medical Council.
Every year, thousands of Indians with medical degrees from foreign universities from countries like Russia, Ukraine, China, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Nepal appear for the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination. As on an average, less than 20 percent are able to clear the examination, they are left with the option of either using unfair means or forgetting about their avowed dream. Then, there are others who without qualifying the FMGE, start practice as doctors.
Last month, the CBI conducted searches at 91 locations across the country at several state medical councils and foreign medical graduates who were allowed to practise in India without qualifying a mandatory test. The agency registered FIRs against 14 state medical councils and 73 foreign medical graduates who were allowed to practice medicine in India without qualifying the mandatory Foreign Medical Graduate Examination. However, the scam is much bigger in proportion, Tehelka SIT has found. In fact, the Indian Medical Association in its report has estimated that about 10 lakh quacks are practicing allopathic medicine. Is anyone listening?