The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors run to Left from UK

New Delhi, April 29: Indian doctors in Britain who fear a new government rule may force them to leave are seeking the help of the Left in Delhi.

The Tony Blair government has made work permits mandatory for doctors from outside the European Union (EU) from July if they want jobs in the country’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

A group of doctors will meet CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan tomorrow and request him to take up the matter with the Centre. They are also likely to approach the CPM.

The NHS employs 1,17,036 overseas doctors, including about 16,000 Indians. The new rule has jeopardised their careers because work permits will not be easy to get. From July, the NHS will have to prove that a vacancy cannot be filled by a “home-grown” doctor before it can hire a foreigner from outside the EU.

Bardhan described the new rule as racist and questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s silence on the matter. He suggested the government might do well to begin thinking about a tit-for-tat response.

Critics also argue that the new rule goes against the tenor of a globalised economy where countries are expected to do away with protections and break down trade barriers. They cite how the US and Britain are nudging the developing countries to scrap or lower subsidies in agriculture.

Bardhan suggested that the British government, after ensuring its own doctors got preference in NHS jobs, could have identified doctors from Commonwealth countries as the second category instead of those from the EU.

“What’s the point of India’s being in the Commonwealth then'” he asked.

Britain is already witnessing protests by Indian doctors under the leadership of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which has more than 25,000 members.

Its president, Dr Ramesh Mehta, said: “Many of them (the affected doctors) have children in school, many have bought houses. Suddenly, everything is gone.”

At a protest on April 21, some Indian doctors said they had borrowed large sums of money to come to Britain which would take them many years to pay off in India.

“I am '5,000 in debt. I am in financial crisis,” said Dr Alok Kalyani, adding he had been in the final round of interviews for a hospital post when the new rules came into force and he was told he was no longer eligible.

The Left, of course, has its own protectionist agenda, as reflected in the proposed bill to regulate foreign universities.

The bill states that foreign universities wishing to set up branches in India will have to implement the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes seat quotas as well as the proposed other backward classes quota if it comes into being.

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