The Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences. Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, July 14: The Medical Council of India has cut down to 50 the MBBS seats at the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, the only medical college in the Himalayan state.
The decision was conveyed to the SMIMS at a time when first year classes are about to begin and 100 students had been selected for admission. The authorities have now put 50 students on waiting list after the MCI intimation.
Based at Tadong here, the SMIMS comes under Sikkim Manipal University and has been operational since 2000. Although at the time of its inception, the SMIMS had been sanctioned 50 seats, last year the MCI had allowed the admission of 100 students.
“Recognised for 50 seats. (Not permitted for renewal of permission for increase of seats from 50 to 100 for 2011-12),” reads an update on the MCI website. According to SMIMS authorities, the update was posted on the MCI website on July 3 and the intimation sent to the office of the dean of the SMIMS four days later. The letter cutting down its admission strength comes at a time when the SMIMS is aggressively pushing to increase its MBBS seats to 150.
“I was shocked when I first read the information on the MCI website. It was only after we got the letter on July 7 that we could prepare a response requesting the MCI to reconsider its decision to cut down the number of seats to 50. We have written to the board of governors of the MCI to reconsider their decision,” said SMIMS dean Ravinder Nath Salhan.
MCI teams had visited the medical college in March and May this year to inspect the infrastructure and faculty strength of the private college for seat expansion.
“The MCI report had cited deficiencies like lack of accommodation for resident doctors, small size of examination halls and faculty quality. We have presented a comparative statement of the MCI requirements, the observations made by the two assessing teams and actual ground position at the SMIMS as of today. This comparative statement clearly brings out that there is no such deficiency as to not to grant permission to increase seats,” said the dean.
“We have told the MCI that Sikkim is located in a mountainous region and because of its difficult and remote location, it is a cumbersome process to fill in the faculty position. But an effort is always on to fill up the posts,” he added.
The SMIMS had circulated advertisements as early as in February announcing that it had 100 MBBS seats and the number was likely to go up to 150. A total of 982 students sat for the entrance exams conducted by the Sikkim Manipal University in the last week of May. Counselling was conducted on July 11 and 13 for admission to the institute. Classes are scheduled to start in August.
Stunned by the unexpected decision, the SMIMS authorities have, at the moment, kept the next 50 students on the merit list on waiting list till it convinces the medical council to reconsider its decision. “The SMIMS is the only medical college in this state and is the largest source of producing local doctors by reserving 20 per cent of annual intake for students of Sikkim. Increased number of seats will go a long way in serving the people of Sikkim,” said Salhan.
Sikkim Lok Sabha member P.D. Rai said he was aware of the MCI decision to cut down on the MBBS seats for SMIMS. “It is a matter of common concern for all of us and we are taking it up with the ministry of health,” he said over the phone from Delhi.