An average 77 per cent Indian students who returned with a foreign medical degree in the past 12 years failed to clear the mandatory screening examination conducted by Medical Council of India.
Any citizen possessing a primary medical qualification awarded by any medical institution outside the country who wants provisional or permanent registration with MCI or any state medical council needs to qualify the screening test (known as Foreign Medical Graduates Examination) conducted by the MCI through the National Board of Examinations (NBE).
In a year-by-year break-up of the number of students who sat for the screening exam, data provided by NBE under RTI Act shows that since 2004, the number of instances of successful candidates crossing 50 per cent of the total who appeared was two, while in one particular instance, only 4 per cent students passed the test.
The highest percentage of 76.8 successful candidates was registered way back in September 2005 when 2,851 students appeared for the test and 2,192 passed it.
In March 2008, 58.7 per cent candidates were able to clear the screening with 1,087 out of 1,851 candidates clearing it.
The last two sessions of the screening exam in 2015, however, saw only 10.4 per cent and 11.4 per cent candidates clearing the test.
In June last year, 5,967 candidates appeared for the exam of whom only 603 cleared it while in December, 6,407 candidates took the screening test and only 731 passed.
In most of the sessions over the past 12 years, the percentage of pass candidates hovered in the twenties with only 282 out of 5,724 (4 per cent) clearing the exam in June 2014, according to the data provided to PTI by the examination conducting body.
The FMGE consists of one paper, comprising 300 multiple choice, single correct response questions in English language only, delivered in two parts, of 150 minutes each, to be taken in a single day.
The examination is a multiple choice questions test delivered using computer network with no negative marking. To qualify for the examination, a candidate is required to score at least 150 out of 300 marks.
According to another data, between 2012 and 2015, MCI said it issued 5,583 "eligibility certificates" to Indian citizens intending to acquire "Primary Medical Qualification" (MBBS or its equivalent) from any country outside India.
A Parliamentary Committee report earlier this month observed that "despite having the most number of medical colleges in the world, and currently having approximately 9.29 lakh doctors enrolled on the Indian Medical Register, India is way behind in achieving the targeted doctor-population ratio of 1:1000 as per WHO norms".
The Rajya Sabha Committee on Health and Family Welfare, in a report presented on March 8, noted, among others, the reason for the "failure of the current system to produce doctors, including specialists and super specialists in adequate numbers and of requisite quality and poor regulation of Undergraduate (UG) and Postgraduate (PG) education".
Notably, the NBE had in 2002 started conducting the screening examination of foreign medical graduates.
Prior to that, there was no such screening of FMGs.
The Committee also observed that many young students who aspire for medical education but do not get an opportunity in India, go for medical education in countries like Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and China and when they come back they are given due recognition by MCI only after they clear the screening test followed by a one year internship to qualify as "eligible doctor" in India.
"The Committee is giving this example to buttress the argument that Minimum Standard Requirements (MSR) should not become a fixation by which MCI strangles the scope for scale-up of medical education, even as it blithely ignores the irrelevance of those standards for the foreign medical graduates who train in institutions which may markedly deviate from them," the report stated.
"Taking all the above facts into account, the Committee is of the considered view that the existing MSRs as mandated by the MCI are irrational and artificially rigid standards which are proving to be a big impediment to the establishment and expansion of medical colleges," the report added.