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Unnatural deaths

Suicides in Tamil Nadu college draw attention to regulatory failure in health education

By: Express News Service |
Updated: January 26, 2016 12:00:27 am

It has taken a students’ suicide pact to draw attention to the consequences of privatisation of education without sufficient attention to regulation. Three women of the S.V.S. Yoga Medical College in Tamil Nadu ended their lives after they were bilked of large sums in fees by the institution, without bills and with no accountability. They were from families with modest means, their parents had gone to the extent of selling land and taking personal loans to finance their education and, without a safety net, their distress was terminal. Protests against the college started in 2010, and the situation could not have escalated if the local administration and Chennai’s Dr M.G.R. Medical University, to which it is affiliated, had paid heed. The institute in question offers naturopathy courses, but is overseen by a medical university. It appears to have taken advantage of this link to project itself as quasi-medical, setting up operation theatres and a dialysis room and incorporating the word “medical” in its name. It duped students and their families by offering the prestigious aura of formal medical education, and it is surprising that probes into students’ complaints by the Dr M.G.R. Medical University failed to detect evidence of wrongdoing. However, since naturopathy institutions fall under the ministry of Ayush, the Centre could have taken an interest in the matter instead of leaving regulation entirely to local talent. Indeed, since the government has flagged alternative medicine as an area of interest, this incident should provoke a re-examination of systems of affiliation and certification in naturopathy. The protocols of oversight should be as stringent as those governing formal medicine. Of course, the proliferation of private institutions teaching formal medicine in this century had defeated regulation, too, and the Medical Council of India lost considerable credibility for its inability to reject corruption and enforce standards uniformly. If education is to be sold as a service, and if technical education is primarily to be a system of accreditation, regulation must be the framework holding up the system. Now that a naturopathy institute is under a cloud, from which affiliation with a medical university has offered no insurance, the government must clearly define where regulatory responsibility should lie, and how it should be applied. Whether by affiliation with the formal medical system or through the ministry of Ayush, the key would be a system of both routine and random checks, specifically designed to expose malpractice.

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First published on: 26-01-2016 at 12:00:24 am
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