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MBBS entrance exam brochure makes no mention of modified rules for disabled candidates

It's back to square one for disabled students who wish to pursue medicine. The application process for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (UG)-2019 has begun but the online brochure of the National Testing Agency (NTA) still has the old guidelines given by the Medical Council of India (MCI) for people with disabilities.

This means disabled students who wish to pursue medicine have to approach the courts and face endless litigation to get what is due to them under law.

This is even after the Centre amended many of the discriminatory MCI guidelines following a representation by 75 doctors with disabilities, under the banner Doctors with Disabilities: Agents of Change, led by noted disability rights leader Dr Satendra Singh.

On the basis of the amendments, many candidates with disabilities were able to get admission into MBBS, in many cases overruling objections raised by the MCI and leading hospitals.

Yet, the modified guidelines are yet to be ratified and approved by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MohFW).

This, as Dr Singh, points out in a letter to Ministry officials as well the NTA, among others, places disabled candidates in an unfair position. He has asked for the admission process to be halted until the guidelines are notified by the Ministry.

it is discriminatory for NTA to start the online application process for NEET 2019 as there is no clarity yet on guidelines for candidates with disabilities. This will give undue advantage to non-disabled candidates….I therefore, request you to halt the process till there is clarity on the guidelines for Persons with Disabilities and till the complete information is uploaded in NEET (UG) 2019 and MCI, MOHFW, MCC websites.- Dr Satendra Singh, Disability rights leader.

Across the country, in states like Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi, different courts have upheld the rights of disabled candidates to study medicine, quashing the MCI guidelines. The delay in notification, says Advocate Jeetendra Gupta, who successfully represented two such students in the Supreme Court, shows a distinct lack of priority.

"The government has widened the beneficiary base but not notified the new regulations even after two months." he points out. "If they had released them, students would have known where they stood. Now they are being asked to sign a blank document. The government talks about divyangs but there is a big gap when it comes to implementation."

For students like Sachin Malik who took their battle to both the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the Supreme Court, it all seems like a cruel joke.

"We had fought to have such discriminatory guidelines removed," says Sachin. "And now to see that nothing has changed, and that students after us will have to fight the same battle, is so wrong. Yet again, there is going to be disappointment and heartbreak."

The larger point is that for every student like Sachin who can take their battle to court for justice, there are thousands of others who are unable to, for lack of awareness or finances. There is a larger injustice here, that is playing out at so many levels.

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