Known for his charitable initiatives, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood has asked an edu tech company to remove all his videos and photographs from its website and social media handles. Sood was shown promoting the company that counsels and assists Indian students to study MBBS in foreign countries.
As a part of his endorsement contract, besides promoting the brand, Sood also sponsored study expenses of eight students who were unable to afford foreign education.
Of late, Sood realised that though his contract got over somewhere in 2021, yet the edu tech company and its affiliates continued to use his videos and pictures to promote its brand and send students abroad.
Sood wouldn’t have bothered much had the medical education regulator National Medical Commission (NMC) not brought in new stringent regulation that has made it impossible for students to become doctors in India with foreign MBBS degrees.
On November 18, 2021, the NMC amended the Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate Regulations 2021 and set out tough norms for students to become doctors in India after graduating from overseas medical colleges.
At present, there is no country which fulfils all the conditions prescribed by the NMC and all those students who have gone abroad after November 18, 2021, may not be allowed to appear in Exit Exams (a mandatory test for getting registered as a doctor in India) once they finish their studies and come back to India.
Realising that his presence on edu tech firm’s website, social media handles and publicity campaign will mislead thousands of students to study abroad, he got them removed immediately.
“My contract got over last year only and I have asked the company to remove my pictures and videos from everywhere,” Sood told Outlook on a phone call.
He added, “I had supported many students who wanted to do MBBS but couldn’t do it because of their weak financial conditions.
Just recently, Sood was in news for helping a seven-month-old Safan Ali to receive a liver transplant at Aster Medcity hospital in Kochi.
When contacted, Srinesh Vallabhaneni, CEO of ISM Edutech, the company that Sood had endorsed, said, “I spoke to Sonu Sood Ji and assured him that we will not use his pictures anywhere. We are trying to delete all new and old posts from our social media handles as well.”
ISM Edutech provides counselling to students who wish to study medicine abroad and has partnered with many universities in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Barbados among others.
Vallabhaneni claims that NMC’s amendment is a minor challenge for those countries in which he sends Indian students for medical education. However, medical and legal experts contradict his claim.
According to an estimate, every year around 10,000 students go abroad to study medical education in various countries such as Russia, China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Georgia, Nepal, Ukraine, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan among others.
As per the amended regulations of NMC, medical education in foreign countries should have—
- A minimum duration of 54 months;
- An internship of a minimum of 12 months in the same foreign medical institution;
- English as the medium of instruction;
- The same curriculum as prescribed by the NMC in India;
- Mandatory registration of medical practitioners to practice in the country from where they have obtained the foreign medical degree; and
- Additional internship for a minimum of 12 months after returning to India.
Legal experts say that at present no country has officially taken a stand that they will provide registration to Indian students to practice if they fulfil all the education and training eligibility.
"Registration to practice in the country from where an Indian citizen has acquired a medical degree is often subject to visa conditions. It may also depend on bilateral grants of such rights to nationals of each other country. Generally, nations, including India, have adopted restrictive policies for granting practising rights to foreign nationals," said Shikhar Ranjan, former law officer of erstwhile regulator Medical Council of India.
Medical and legal experts advise students not to travel abroad for medical education if they want to come back to India to practice as a doctor. “Instead of following the instructions of education agents and counsellors, students should approach NMC for appropriate guidance,” said Supreme Court lawyer DK Garg.
After the Supreme Court upheld these regulations on May 2, 2021, thousands of education agents who are in the business of sending students abroad are worried about their business operations.
“We are exploring legal options, if any, else we all have to shut our shops. Good and honest agents have already stopped sending students abroad but those who are playing with students’ careers for money are still running the business by misleading students with false information,” said a Delhi-based agent, requesting anonymity.