In a major relief to the community of 'non-medical' teachers with medical MSc/PhD qualifications, the central government has directed the National Medical Commission (NMC) to adhere to the previous Medical Council of India (MCI) norms regarding the percentage of the 'non-medical' teachers.
"The NMC may continue to adopt the old pattern of permissible percentage of non medical teachers for the time being, subject to the outcome of the pending court cases", said Union Health Minister in its order. However, the subject of reducing the percentage of non medical teachers in non-clinical departments of medical colleges is pending before the court.
As per the MCI's Teachers Eligibility and Qualifications guidelines, 'non-medical' teachers possessing medical M.Sc/Ph.D qualifications could be appointed to the extent of 30 per cent (50 per cent in Biochemistry) of the faculty positions in the five non-clinical departments of medical colleges. Meanwhile, when the MCI was replaced by the NMC, the same guidelines were incorporated in the draft document "Amendment to Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS admissions Regulations, 2020" released for public feedback on October 13, 2020.
However, when the final document emerged on October 28, 2020, the permissible percentage of 'non-medical' teachers were reduced from 50 per cent to 15 per cent in Biochemistry, from 30 per cent to 15 per cent in Anatomy and Physiology and completely abolished in Pharmacology and Microbiology. Availability of sufficient medical teachers and the introduction of the new competency based curriculum were the reasons attributed to this reduction.
However, the decision sparked a nationwide agitation by National MSc Medical Teachers' Association (NMMTA). "This U-turn was a bolt from the blue for all of us," said Dr Sridhar Rao, President NMMTA.
"When the draft notification was published, the NMC was fully aware of the faculty shortages in medical colleges. In fact, in January 2020, the Board of Governors in supersession of the MCI had categorically stated that owing to continued shortage of medically qualified teachers, appointment of 'non-medical' teachers should not be stopped. Despite the fact that there has been an increase in the MD seats in the non-clinical subjects, 40-50 per cent of them remained vacant. Therefore, such faculty shortages would naturally continue in the future.
The new competency based curriculum was introduced in 2019 by the MCI. When the NMC released the draft guidelines retaining the MCI's percentages, it was already aware of the faculty shortages and the new curriculum, therefore, it is obvious to us that these were never the actual reasons behind the reduction in permissible percentages of 'non-medical' teachers but were mere afterthoughts put forth simply to justify its actions, he added.
The NMMTA had filed an appeal on February 28, 2021 with the NMC under the provisions of the NMC Act, which was dismissed. Consequently, the association filed a second appeal on September 7, 2021 with the central government requesting to restore the previous MCI norms as far as 'non-medical' teachers are concerned.
"This appeal was vital for our survival. Although it was stated that the new guidelines would not affect the existing 'non-medical' teachers, the contrary was happening on the ground", said Dr Rao.
"Not only did the new guidelines rendered several existing faculties jobless, scores of students who had passed out from their medical M.Sc courses found themselves ineligible to apply for tutor posts", said Dr Arjun Maitra, General Secretary of NMMTA.