Close to 10,000 Indians across the country who have completed their undergraduate medical education abroad are unemployed or under-employed. This is because they have not been able to clear the screening test mandated by the Medical Council of India (MCI). Now, the graduates plan to approach Prime MinisterManmohan Singh and Parliament demanding that the test be scrapped.

The foreign medical graduates and their parents held a meeting in Chennai on Sunday. Dr Ameer Jahan, chief patron of All India Foreign Medical Graduates’ Association, said each student had spent Rs 15 to 20 lakh to study abroad. “They spend half of what it would cost at a private college here. Their course is nearly seven years long compared to the five-and-half-year medical course here. Every time they fail the screening test, they get delayed by six months and get depressed,” he said.

Since 2002, students who have studied medicine abroad have had to appear for a screening test conducted by MCI, the regulatory authority for medical education. Only those who clear the test, administered bythe National Board of Examinations, get certificates from the state medical council permitting them to do a year-long internship in a university or hospital in the state. So far, the highest pass percentage has been 50% in 2005. Pass percentages have varied from a dismal 9% in 2003 to 27% in 2011.

Senior MCI officials said they would not cancel or dilute the test. “Medicine, unlike other courses, cannot be taken lightly. Doctors deal with lives. We want to convince ourselves that every doctor is adequately trained,” the official said.

Every time the screening test is held in March or September, about 75% of students fail. Prabhu Raj, 27, completed his undergraduate degree from Stavropol Medical Academy in 2009. He has not been able to clear the test for four years. “I had dreamt of being a doctor from the time I was young. When I could not get a merit seat, I decided to study in Russia since it was cheaper than paying capitation fee to a private college,” he said.