NEET-PG counseling delay: Resident doctor groups threaten more protests

After the counseling for NEET-PG 2022 was postponed by the Medical Advisory Committee (MCC), resident doctors’ associations have written to the Health Minister and Director General of Health Services saying they would be forced to protest.

In a notice on September 29, the MCC said it was postponing the counseling to allow the National Medical Commission to issue a letter of permission for new postgraduate seats.

Last December, resident doctors at hospitals in medical colleges in India had gone on strike and urged the government to expedite the NEET-PG 2021 counselling, which began only in February this year. MBBS students had demanded that the PG exam for 2022 be delayed by 8-10 weeks as it had been scheduled soon after the previous year’s counselling.

The Ministry of Health, however, refused to delay the exams, saying that the authorities were trying to regularize the batches that were delayed due to the pandemic. The exams were held as scheduled on May 21 and the results were announced within 10 days, but the counseling process was “indefinitely halted for a long duration”, and the NMC issued a provisional calendar in the first half of August.

The Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), which had led the protests last December, criticized the delay of the advisory to 2022 and said it would be “unfavourable” for the healthcare system.

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Uncertainty about EWS quota

Last year, counseling was delayed first due to the pandemic and then due to a series of demands related to the newly introduced 10% reservation for people from economically weaker sections (EWS). The EWS quota issue is still in the Supreme Court, prompting speculation that the advisory was being delayed until a verdict is reached.

“We do not understand the reasons for these delays in the procedures… The academic session is already delayed by almost 4-5 months, delaying it further is very unfavorable not only for the medical graduates but also for the healthcare system of the nation,” FORDA wrote in the letter to the Health Minister.

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The association said, “Should there be further delays in the counseling process, we will be forced to protest.”

The Federation of Indian Medical Associations, which was also part of last year’s protest, said in a letter to the Director General of Health Services: “We urge the officials concerned to expedite the process of NEET-PG 2022 counseling without further delay and release the official counseling schedule as soon as possible.The year 2021 saw a massive strike by resident doctors across the country to speed up the process.. And now, the story is about to repeat itself… The authorities concerned are inciting students to repeat these actions by delaying the counseling process again.”

PG students work in medical college hospitals as junior residents. With one batch missing, hospitals are operating at two-thirds of their capacity.

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