Despite Intelligentsia’s opposition – Proposed BOND for emigrating Indian MBBS be extended to other subsidized professionals…

When Indian Health Minister, Gulam Nabi Azad proposed that all Indian MBBS moving to US for further studies sign a bond that if they donot return, they will not be allowed to practice back in India, it seemed like a new beginning to things… After-all, thousands of Indian doctors do emigrate and the Government reasoning is that for each medical doctor’s education, the government’s subsidy is significant. TOI informs

According to the study, AIIMS spends at least Rs 31.31 lakh on every undergraduate student per year per course as against an annual fee of an MBBS student of Rs 850 per year that includes room and board and tuition fee.

Over 53% of AIIMS students leave India to work abroad. According to the Medical Council of India (MCI), till July 27, 2011, 767 doctors may have left for foreign shores.

These doctors had asked the MCI to issue them Good Standing Certificates (GSC) – a mandatory requirement for doctors seeking work in hospitals abroad. The MCI issued 1,264 GSCs in 2010, 1,386 GSCs in 2009 and 1,002 in 2008.

Hence the rationale of expecting the doctors who have been educated through significant government subsidy to put in a few years of service in India can easily be justified. There is a clear need to come up with a clear policy on this. It is not just MBBS which is heavily subsidized. I understand that each student who studies at an IIT is subsidized by upto Rs 10 lakhs per year. The same holds for several other professions including possibly IIMs.

What the Government may consider is the model that AFMC Pune or others have. I understand that a student who completes his medical degree from AFMC can choose not to join the Armed Forces Medical Services but then they need to pay an exit fees equal to (or possibly a little less) the subsidy that went into his education. Instead of getting the doctors to sign a bond that indicated that they cannot practice in India after emigrating, the doctor should be allowed to pay an exit-fees that returns the government’s subsidy into the education.

Similar regulations are in Singapore and apply even to International students who receive subsidized Education.

However, the intelligentsia reacted to the proposal with the usual disdain. Several articles can be found on the web where the Minister’s proposal has been severely criticized. However, one of the strongest notes is on the blog of Mr Swaminathan Aiyar and also reported in his column called Swaminomics. Widely respected, his comments are obviously weighty. In my personal opinion, Aiyar has picked and chosen extreme examples to make his point. I agree with him that that emigration is a right and cannot be stopped. However he failed to list the system that exists in Singapore even for international students where they are expected to work for a few years if their places have been subsidized. He also quoted incorrect statistics when he mentioned that one lakh travel each year for studies to US alone (one lakh is the number of indians enrolled in US and not the number of Indians who go to US each year. The number of student visas issued each year from India to US is around 40,000 or less). Now consider his extreme examples to put down the proposal…

Hitler didn’t give German Jews the right to migrate. Communist East Germany thought it had a right to shoot citizens attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union mostly had strict curbs on emigration, but allowed the mass exit of its Jews to Israel after the 1967 war in which Moscow backedthe Arabs. Moscow imposed a “diploma tax” on emigrants with higher education, to claw back the cost of their education. Israel often picked up the bill, leading to sneers that the Soviet Union was selling Jews. International protests obliged Moscow to abolish the tax. 

Like the Soviets, Azad wants to claw back sums spent on educating doctors. Like East Germany, he seeks to erect exit barriers by denying Indian doctors a ‘no objection certificate’ to practice in the US. The right to emigrate does not enter his calculations: Azad does not want this azaadi! 

The article also talks on the gains from emigration and that the talk of brain drain is a lop sided discussion. Many of us who know it from close quarters agree with his arguments but at the same time I do believe that we need to find a way through with such a huge subsidy that goes into medical and engineering education in India is not wasted at all. I doubt if any other country subsidizes to the same level.

Hence, the financial bond that is being proposed should be considered and developed than simply being rejected. I am also sure that employers hiring such graduates can easily pay the bond money on their behalf if they really value the Indian manpower export.

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