By Dr. Shivanand B Hiremath
For several years, compulsory ‘rural service’ for graduates of government medical colleges has been projected as the magic wand which will instantly clear the rot in the government health sector.
This is how rotten it is. India produces one of the highest numbers of medical graduates in the world, yet it suffers a poor doctor-population ratio of 1:1700. At one end of the spectrum is medical tourism which is booming while the other end reflects the woeful state of the public health system. Low expenditure on health, mismanagement of human resources and inertia in policy making and implementation are the prime reasons for the failure of the government health sector. In many states including Karnataka, posts of medical officers, specialist doctors and ancillary services have been vacant for many years. In many government health centres, even basic infrastructure and essential drugs are still a mirage.
Against this backdrop, state governments run medical colleges and claim that the state exchequer spends a huge sum – approximately Rs 5-6 lakh per MBBS student per year) – to provide ‘quality’ medical education to meritorious students. In return, the government expects fresh medical graduates to serve in rural areas or in government-run hospitals in the state where they graduate from.
The moral responsibility of doctors for being in this noble profession and studying on state funds is to serve society. Yes, we definitely owe something to society and to the people of our country. At this juncture, some questions spring to mind: Are we – medical students of state run medical colleges –the only group of students who study on tax payers’ money? And is it only the health sector which is rotting?
Premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of technology (IIT), Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and many others are funded by the government too.
We are proud Indians whenever IITians or IIM graduates are placed in a multinational company with salaries touching or exceeding eight digits. We are even prouder when an IIT alumnus heads an international tech giant. Our country is famous for exporting CEOs to the rest of the world.
But. How proud are we about being Indians, when it comes to innovations especially in defence and space technology? Over 60 years after IITs were started, India is still dependent on other countries for technology especially in defence and space sectors. The government spends around Rs 3.5 to 4 lakh a year on IIT students, approximately Rs 5 lakh per year on IIM students and around Rs 12 lakh per year on FTII students. In turn what does the country get? How many of these IITians, IIM graduates work in the government sector? How many of these young geniuses work for the army or ISRO? Most of them go out of the country or launch start-ups creating the brain drain.
But above all these considerations, what is stopping the government from making them work for the country compulsorily like it has been done with medical graduates?
It’s not only about IITs or IIMs, but even basic level institutes like teachers’ training centres, skill development centres or any other professional institute funded by the government . Those who have been trained in government funded institutes should be made to serve in their respective fields in the public sector for a certain period of time.
The Constitution of India has given us the right to equality. Making only young medical graduates from government colleges to work compulsorily for the government is a type of sophisticated discrimination. Service to humanity – being the principle of our profession, we never refuse to serve, but we also wish to have our mates from other fields to contribute for the betterment of the country along with us!