Jammu-Kashmir MBBS students are looking for alternatives to the NEET AIQ.

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Anmol Palak, 25, has moved on. Palak, a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir, finished his MBBS degree in 2021 and decided against going for a postgraduate degree in favour of trying his luck in the Public Service Commission (PSC) exams. Many of his pals are thinking about relocating abroad yet still want to practice medicine.

“I finished my internship in December of the previous year. I’ve now passed the PSC exam to become a medical officer. It was a choice I made for myself. My postgraduate [studies] will be postponed for at least two or three years. Many of the kids I know are getting ready to fly to the US or the UK since they will be stranded otherwise, according to Palak. Students claimed that there are several explanations for these choices. Students from UT are one year behind due to test processing delays, and there is fierce rivalry for the few available slots. The All India Quota (AIQ) was later expanded to include Jammu and Kashmir starting in 2022, further complicating an already difficult admissions process.

Students are preferring to move along rather than “waste” time trying to study medicine in J-K.

NEET AIQ in J-K

All medical colleges in Jammu and Kashmir fell under AIQ after the National Eligibility Cumulation Entrance Test (NEET) PG merit list was released in mid-July. As a result, AIQ was used to pool 50% of the postgraduate seats at the government medical colleges (GMCs) in Jammu and Srinagar and 100% of the seats at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), a deemed institution. Protests broke out in Jammu and Kashmir’s medical colleges as a result of the action. It was inevitable that the medical seats in the Union Territory would be pooled into the All India Quota with the repeal of Article 370 and the denial of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir. Students claimed that this was not a choice that should have been made hastily.

Jammu & Kashmir, in contrast to other states, has just 542 postgraduate places at present, spread over three medical colleges. Less than half of that will now be allocated to pupils in grades J–K. The majority of SKIMS seats, which had the most clinical seats among the three colleges, were transferred to AIQ, according to students, who also claimed that this resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of clinical seats. “SKIMS accounted for between 40 and 45 per cent of the seats, a sizable portion. For the roughly 1,400 students who show up for the exams, there are just 170 seats available with AIQ. Only 40% of these seats are clinical ones. Everybody wants hospital chairs.

No one wants to do research at the start of their career so, people usually go for clinical studies. If you look at just the clinical seats, I’m sure that is going to be under 100 seats,” said Palak.

No additional NEET PG seats

Students also noted that no additional postgraduate seats were added during the same time period, despite an increase in the number of undergraduate seats to 1,100 over the previous few years. The five new medical colleges established by the union government—GMC Anantnag, GMC Baramulla, GMC Rajouri, GMC Doda, and GMC Kathua—all received approval to begin offering undergraduate programmes in 2021. While the number of undergraduate seats grew, there was no change in the number of postgraduate seats because colleges cannot begin their postgraduate programmes until their first group of MBBS students has graduated.

Students also claimed that many of the new GMCs are understaffed, forcing the government to transfer instructors from the existing ones. “The number of faculty members is another factor in seat expansion. They can only increase seats if they have a sufficient faculty. Now, any of these five new colleges can take advantage of faculty members from GMC Jammu or GMC Srinagar. Department heads were scarce. Then, some are hired fresh. They are unable to add more seats at this time, according to Palak.

No NEET bond period

Students also emphasised that, unlike other states, Jammu and Kashmir do not ask students to sign contracts pledging to work there for a specified period of time after graduation. Because of this, students from other states may decide to leave after completing their programmes, destroying the medical system’s reliance on locals. “The same story can be seen at any medical college in Jammu and Kashmir. Only one or two registrars and two or three consultants make up the department at GMC Kathua, and they are responsible for managing OPDs. Senior residents who are also junior residents must be brought, according to Palak. “

“Medical institutions are currently experiencing a crisis. They lack qualified physicians. There are no ties between the pupils arriving here. They will have to labour in the state for two to three years in other states. If the same holds true in this instance, everyone would benefit. They have not provided information regarding the bond mechanism, at least not this year. Students from Jammu and Kashmir studying abroad will not be permitted to return to fill the vacancies until their bonds in other states are completed because of the bonds in those other states.

MBBS Students: A year lost

Medical students in Jammu and Kashmir are also dissatisfied with the ongoing delays in the GMC tests, in addition to the paucity of seats. Students claim that because of the delay in holding exams, many batches had to show up for NEET PG one year after the rest of the nation. “I haven’t had any paper failures. I do, however, graduate a year later than the Indian students as a whole. Because the institution doesn’t hold exams on schedule, we are behind the rest of India by a whole year. Friends who completed their degrees in other states last year already gave the NEET PG. We can only do it now, a student named Sushant Kherkha stated.

Kherka joined GMC Jammu in 2015 and could appear for NEET PG 2022 and is awaiting the NEET counselling dates.

This is a really serious problem that we have. The GMC academic cycle is always one year behind schedule in both Jammu and Srinagar. According to Abhay K. Gupta, general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Junior Doctor’s Network, the exam is held for one month, the results are released after three to four months, and by that time, a year has passed. “The 2016 batch participated in NEET 2022 across India. The 2015 batch came from Jammu & Kashmir. The following year will be the same as this one. They will lose two years outright [as they will have to reappear] if these batches don’t perform well on the NEET PG, according to Gupta.

Moving abroad

Students have been driven to choose alternative paths and jobs due to a shortage of postgraduate seats and the length of the exam procedure. Some are attempting to leave the country. Students claimed that the delayed operation of the medical system is another factor driving people’s desire to relocate abroad. The NEET PG exam was held in May, and Gupta stated that the counselling date has not yet been set. “I began my MBBS in 2015, and I’m still awaiting the commencement of the admissions procedure. More than seven years have passed. People so prefer to move out to avoid wasting their valuable years. Moving to the US or UK is a common choice.

Mayank Tewari

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