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Petition challenging new postgraduate medical admission rules to come up in court

Today the Delhi High Court will hear the petition against the recent guidelines of the Medical Council of India (MCI) regarding the upcoming Postgraduate (PG) Counselling 2019 for disabled medical students.

Watching the proceedings closely is Mohammed Shaloo, a practicing doctor for two years with an over 90% disability.

Under the MCI's new PG guidelines, Dr Shaloo is ineligible to pursue an MD, thus effectively ending his dreams to do a specialization.

Dr Shaloo, who has post residual polio paralysis, has been a junior resident doctor for two years now - first in the paediatrics department of SMS Medical College, Jaipur and presently at the physical medicine and rehabilitation department of RML College in New Delhi.

He has also cleared the NEET postgraduate entrance exam. However, the new MCI guidelines, released on 5 February 2019, say anyone with a disability above 80% is ineligible.

First, Safdarjung Hospital declared me ineligible and now a few days, SMS Hospital in Jaipur has done the same. I am feeling terrible because the MCI guidelines block me from studying further. This has shaken my confidence. I had plans to specialize in radio diagnosis or a similar field which would be suited to my disability. If someone like me with a 90% disability can do an MBBS, then why not an MD? - Dr Mohammed Shaloo. Junior Resident Doctor

Widespread outrage

Dr Shaloo's senior colleagues share his outrage. "He has consistently maintained a good academic record and nor has disability come in the way of his performance as a doctor", says Dr Dr S M Afzal, who works in the pathology department of SMS Medical College. "The 80% disability rule is most unfair, and bars most people. If he has come this far, it is wrong to block him at this level. After all, he can choose his specialization based on his disability".

The petition coming up in court today has been filed by leading disability rights crusader Dr Satendra Singh, who is also mobilizing the over 200 disabled doctors who will be affected by the new guidelines.

The National Platform for Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), a nationwide cross disability rights group has also written to the government to intervene in the matter urgently.

"It is really a tragedy that inspite of having a strong enabling law like the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, mindsets continue to be discriminatory and prejudiced", says Muralidharan, General Secretary, NPRD. "Even with the 1995 Act, the culprit for its poor implementation was the State. The bureaucracy and various other arms of the State refused to implement its various provisions resulting in hundreds of litigations. The current Act is still in its infancy and we are already flooded with any number of cases".

Murlidharan adds that the MCI's stand emphaizes the incapacity rather than the capacity of persons with disabilities. "It is attempting to create all sort of barriers. Even while the RPD Act provides that a certificate issued in one state is valid throughout the country, the guidelines for counselling has designated 10 centres where disabled persons have to go and get themselves certified again. Apart from inconveniencing people with disabilities, they are questioning the integrity of the certifying authorities in the concerned states".

Depending on what unfolds in court, Dr Shaloo will decide his next steps. Backing down is not one of them.

"I plan to file a petition at a later stage as well. After completing my MBBS and practicing for two years, I am not ready tp meekly accept the word 'ineligible' on my certificate. This is not the first time. When I applied for MBBS, I was rejected twice, but I fought back and won. I will do the same this time".

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