In his Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced plans to increase 5,000 postgraduate medical seats annually. The move will help bridge the gap between the undergraduate and postgraduate seats in the country. He also mentioned plans to establish a National Testing Agency, which will be the body responsible for conducting centralised entrance examinations.

Jaitley mentioned in his budget speech that this move will ‘free CBSE, AICTE and other premiere institutions from administrative responsibilities’. CBSE conducts the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission in MBBS/BDS courses across the country.

Lauding the decision of increasing PG seats, a NEET PG aspirant Nivedha Jay from Tamil Nadu said that she is hopeful of getting a seat next year. “It is depressing to see the ratio of PG seats to that of MBBS graduates every year. The budget announcement will give aspirants like us a ray of hope. More aspirants will have a fair chance now of pursuing their dreams,” said Jay.

However, Shubham Jain, a second year MBBS student from Mumbai feels that although the move is commendable, it would be of no use if NEXT (National Exit Test) comes into the picture. “On one hand, the government is increasing PG seats, but on the other, it is proposing an exit test (NEXT). With various reservation policies proposed in the draft NEXT suggestions, there will be very less number of seats available for general category students,” said Jain.

NEXT is an exit test proposed by the Ministry of Health, which will ensure that MBBS students get their license to practice only after they clear the examination. The bill has also proposed that NEXT rank could be used for counselling to PG medical courses in different medical colleges across the country.

“Even if there is an increase in the number of PG seats, the consequent reservations will rise. It will leave very little scope for MBBS students like us to end up getting a seat and take up the specialty we are interested in,” said Jain.

Arun Jaitley also mentioned that additional steps will be taken to roll out DNB (Diplomate of National Board) courses in big district hospitals. It will encourage private hospitals to start DNB courses as well. ‘We will work with the state government to take these tasks forward. The government is committed to take necessary steps for structural transformation of the Regulatory framework of Medical Education and Practice in India,’ said Jaitley in his budget speech.  

A total of Rs. 1,30,215 crores have been allocated to Education and Healthcare sector this year in the union budget, becoming the fourth highest allocated sector. A whopping amount of Rs. 10,647 crores have been added to the budget allocated to Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, making it Rs. 48,853 crores from Rs. 38,206 crores last year.

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