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Medical degrees from former Soviet countries are under question

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 03 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:238
  1. Sanjay Kumar
  1. New Delhi

    Indian medical students educated in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet republics) are up in arms against the Medical Council of India and the health ministry over recognition of their degrees.

    The medical council has demanded that the students should clear a screening test, starting from September 2002, before they are given a permanent registration to practise medicine in India.

    “This is highly discriminatory and illegal, as we all studied in institutions recognised by the medical council of India, and tantamount to virtual de-recognition of our degrees,” said Dr Prashant Arun, secretary of the All India Association of Foreign Returned Doctors.

    “Does the medical council or the health ministry ask students from recognised private Indian medical colleges to also appear in any screening test?” he added. “Also, we are forced to undergo another year of internship in India after already doing it in Russia.”

    Some 7000 to 10 000 medical students are currently studying in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Many who have come back will be affected by the medical council's ruling immediately. The derecognition of degrees from these countries has been mooted since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, but political factors, such as India's strategic closeness to Russia, prevented its implementation.

    “We found that the standards fell [after the fall of the Soviet Union], and there was a disparity between the various universities,” said retired major general Som Prakash Jhingon, who was appointed by the Delhi High Court as administrator of the medical council after removing Dr Ketan Desai last November.

    Desai was found guilty of corrupt practices and abuse of power (BMJ 2001;323:1385). A raid by tax officials on Dr Desai's house last year showed unexplained receipts of 6.5 million rupees (£95 000; $136 000).

    Dr Arun alleges that the purpose of the medical council's demands, which were initiated by Desai, is to harass students and their families and to stop students going to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, thus benefiting the private medical colleges in India, which allegedly take hefty bribes in giving admissions.

    “We spend one 10th of what we have to pay here in India for medical education, and the standards in Russia and Commonwealth institutions are very good—with well equipped hospitals and well qualified teachers,” said Dr Arun.

    But Jhingon says that the medical council has been receiving complaints against students returning from Russia and the other countries.

    “Many have fake degrees, and almost 40%-50% of those who apply for registration turn out to be bogus students,” he told the BMJ. The medical council has lodged some 130 complaints with the Delhi police about such cases, he added. “Every country has some screening examination for foreign returned doctors, and I see no logic in the demands of the protesting doctors.”