Anand Rai, whistleblower in the Vyapam case, told the Supreme Court this month that the Oversight Committee—set up by the court to look at all MCI decisions—was creating “Munnabhais”, alluding to the popular Bollywood comedy where Sanjay Dutt played a gangster who pretended to be a doctor and got an MBBS. The court told Anand Rai to not get so emotional.
Here was a classic dispute over the appropriate line of treatment. Medical education itself is ailing, and the universal diagnosis is: critical. In May, the apex court appointed a three-member OC comprising Justice R.M. Lodha, former CAG Vinod Rai, and and Dr Shiv Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, Delhi. Given the taint of corruption on the MCI, one might have pictured almirahs full of dubious permissions to substandard medical colleges being opened up, and a flurry of cancellations by the OC.
Instead, the opposite happened. Assessment norms were relaxed and dozens of bans were overturned, even if conditionally. Justice Lodha, the panel head, says this was being “practical”, since classes were to begin on October 1. “There’s a huge demand-supply gap. We have freed up thousands of seats.” Nearly 8,000 seats in 63 colleges, to be precise. That’s also 8,000 students who may find themselves in a limbo if a surprise check by the OC leads to a cancellation.
Yes, the OC also agreed with the MCI and denied permissions to 29 colleges (2,050 seats). But the idea of oversight implies a degree of alignment in objectives. With policy responses to the crisis in medical education going in all directions, the whole process gets a bit muddied.
The MCI is not a decision-making body but recommends actions to the Union health ministry. Now, it...