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Social Justice Ministry's intervention sought in matter of biased medical education guidelines

In a strongly worded letter to Thawar Chand Gehlot, Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has asked for the Ministry's intervention in the various issues surrounding the admissions to undergraduate and postgraduate courses in medicine.

This comes in response to the revised regulations issued by the Board of Governors, Medical Council of India that bar certain categories of disabled people from pursuing medicine. Guidelines that as the letter points, out violate the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The NPRD had earlier written about the same matter in relation to undergraduate admissions to the Minister of Health & Family Welfare, J P Nadda. That letter, dated 13 February, is yet to receive a response. Despite the outrage that generated, the notification for PG Counselling 2019 that followed shows a similar disregard for provisions of the RPWD Act.

The notification for PG Counselling directs aspirants to "get themselves assessed for their disability and obtain a Disability Certificate from any one of the designated Disability Centre…. to secure admission under 5% quota for candidates with benchmark disabilities….". This is in addition to the disability certificate issued by a certifying authority from the state to which the candidate belongs. As the NPRD points out, this has been mentioned despite Section 59 (3) of the Act explicitly stating that the disability certificate should be held valid across India.

In its letter, the NPRD points to a similar move in 2017 by the Ministry of Railways to launch a separate Disability Card for disabled people despite the MSJE's decision to issue a universally valid ID card for the community. There were objections raised by the NPRD to this on the grounds that this would entail hardships as disabled people would have to carry multiple cards.

The MCI move is pushing disabled candidates into a similar corner.

Now with the UDID being rolled out and the RPD Act providing that a certificate issued under Section 59 would be valid throughout the country (it makes no exemption or distinction as to where or for what purpose it will not be valid), the insistence of a second certificate from another authority is a clear violation of the law. Needless to say, this also invites untold hardships to aspiring disabled candidates. - National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

The NPRD has urged the MSJE to intervene urgently to ensure that the provisions of RPWD Act are "implemented in letter and spirit".

"We seek your urgent intervention to see that during the counselling for various medical courses, the certificate issued by the central government notified authority in the states is accepted and the need to get an additional certificate from another agency as notified by the MCI is done away with".

SM from Haryana, who does not wish to be identified, is among the many students who approached the Supreme Court last year after his MBBS admission was rejected by the Haryana government in spite of them making it to the merit list under the physically handicapped category. "It is disheartening and depressing that despite the various Supreme Court orders, the MCI continues to discriminate against disabled students. When I qualified for NEET last year, I was told to get a second disability certificate from Safdarjung Hospital although I had a valid one already. This is unjust".

Abha Khetarpal, disability rights activist and counsellor, says the MCI attitude smacks of regression.

"These MCI guidelines are exclusionary and discriminatory, perpetuating the stigma and stereotype of associating disability with illness and inefficiency simply because they are neither trained nor sensitized enough to negotiate with diversity".

The outrage over the MCI's repeated and overt biases is growing. How much longer before the government takes note and acts?

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