‘Proposed medical commission undemocratic’

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Dr Vasant Lunge, state vice-president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), has alleged that the central government is trying to dissolve the democratically constituted Medical Council of India (MCI) and replace it with a ‘bureaucrat-filled, non-democratic’ National Medical Commission.

Addressing a press conference here today, Lunge said that IMA is opposed to this. He said that instead of bringing in the Commission, the Centre should bring in necessary amendments to the MCI and retain it. He said that to protest this move of the centre, among other things, the IMA is staging an agitation in Delhi on June 6.

He said that members of IMA from across the country will gather at Raj Marg, Delhi, at 8 am on June 6 and walk to Indira Gandhi stadium before submitting a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding a central Act for protection to doctors from physical attacks and assaults and guarantee of quality of generic medicines.

The other demands include cancellation of NEXT exam for MBBS passouts, holding MBBS final year exam at national level, holding PG NEET exam within 45 days of declaration of MBBS final results and starting internship training on the same date throughout India.

Non-registration of criminal cases against medical practitioners for medical negligence, and implementation of the recommendations made by the centre-constituted inter-ministerial committee.

DGHS to fill all-India quota in govt medical colleges: SC

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The Supreme Court has ordered that the all-India quota in deemed universities and government medical colleges will be filled by the director general of health services (DGHS) in New Delhi. This will include deemed universities run by religious and linguistic minorities too as these institutes have an all-India character.

The quota is 15% for UG courses and 50% for PG courses. Till the year before last, deemed universities conducted their own exams and admitted all students.Last year, after losing a case in the SC in the middle of the admission process, they admitted students based on NEET rankings.

 

Common counselling for state quota seats in government and private medical colleges, including colleges institutions run by religious and linguistic minorities affiliated to state universities, shall be conducted by the state government or the authority designated by the state government. Moreover, state governments must conduct two rounds of centralised counseling for the all-India quota and process the admission too on behalf of deemed universities and private colleges.

 

The apex court has ruled that cheques for tuition fees should be collected by the state’s admission-conducting body so that colleges do not state that candidates weren’t turning up. After the second round of counselling for all-India seats, students who take admission should not be permitted to vacate them, the SC said.

 

“This would ensure that very few seats are reverted to the state quota and also allIndia quota seats are filed by students from the all-India merit list only. The students who take admission and se cure admission in deemed universities pursuant to the second round of counselling conducted by the DGHS shall not be eligible to participate in any other counseling,” the SC ruled in a writ petition filed by Dar-us-salam Education Trust against the MCI.

 

The notification to be is sued by the state notifying the common counselling should also provide the fee structure of deemed universities and private medical colleges, as per the SC directive. “The students who secure admission in MBBS course pursuant to the common counselling conducted by the state government, should be made to deposit with the counselling committee the demand draft towards the fees payable to the institution. The admission counselling committee shall forthwith forward the demand draft to the respective institution/colleges/university. The necessity for including the above-mentioned requirement has arisen as it has been time and again noticed that when students report to the college after the counselling they are refused admission by the colleges on some pretext or the other and it is shown by the college as if the student never reported to the college for admission.”

NEET: Honesty test strips dignity

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A girl who took the all-India medical entrance exam in Kerala yesterday was told to her horror that the ban on candidates carrying metallic items into the exam hall applied even to the buckles on her bra.

The 19-year-old was forced to remove the innerwear and hand it to her mother, who was waiting outside the centre in Kannur, north Kerala, before she was allowed to enter.

The dress code for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) indeed bans metallic items to pre-empt any cheating through hidden electronic devices. But ordinarily, this is understood to apply to earrings, hairpins, headbands, brooches, big metal buttons and the like.

The girl, who took the test at TISK English Medium School in Kovvapuram, Kannur, told: “First, they asked me to change my black trousers (as only light-coloured clothing was allowed), which I did after buying a new pair. When I returned it was already 9.20am (against the entry deadline of 9.30am).”

There was more shock in store for her when a woman official heard beeps on her metal detector while scanning the girl. “When I told her they were just the shoulder buckles on my bra strap, she asked me to remove the bra,” she said.

With the nearest washroom a few minutes’ walk away, and unwilling to lose any more time, she chose to remove the innerwear at the all-woman screening room itself.

“I don’t know how I managed to write the exam as the incident left me rattled,” the girl, who had prepared for a year for the three-hour test, said.

“Why make an issue over a couple of bra buckles, when even my glasses had a metal frame?”

She added: “I’m sure at least three other girls in my exam room faced the same ordeal, as I saw them in great discomfort without their innerwear.”

Another girl who had appeared at the same centre in a pair of jeans had to remove the cheek pockets and the metal buttons.

Media reports quoted her father as saying he had to travel 3km and wait for a shop to open to buy new clothes for his daughter to wear when she stepped out after the 10am-to-1pm test.

While the other examinees left after the test, the girl who had to remove her innerwear summoned the courage to approach the local media waiting outside the centre to cover the conduct of the test.

The state human rights commission today registered a complaint on the basis of media reports and asked Kannur police to investigate and register a case against the officials.

Both the police and the regional office of the Central Board of Secondary Education, which conducts the test, must submit reports on the incident within three weeks, commission acting chairman P. Mohan Das said.

Das said the CBSE, which issued the dos and don’ts, should understand the cultural sensitivities and diverse dressing habits prevalent in the country before unilaterally writing down a code.

“Asking a young girl to remove her innerwear could be the most humiliating and inhumane act. Such harassment can only rattle the self-confidence of candidates who would have prepared for months.”

CBSE sources said the complaints about “excessive” frisking, including the ordeal of the Kerala girl, would be examined. They said such “excessive” frisking was not warranted and the board would take precautions in future.

“The prospectus informed the candidates they would be subjected to extensive and compulsory frisking with highly sensitive metal detectors, but seeking the removal of innerwear should have been avoided,” a senior board official said.

Board sources explained the dress code as an anti-cheating measure that became necessary after the Supreme Court had cancelled the NEET in 2015 following evidence of large-scale malpractice.

Among the items the candidates are banned from carrying are shoes, writing pads, pen drives, erasers, calculators, cellphones, Bluetooth devices, earphones, pagers, wallets, belts, caps, watches, bracelets, water bottles, rings, chains, necklaces and pendants.

Repeated calls to Union government joint secretary Sanyam Bharadwaj, assigned to oversee the conduct of the test, first evoked advice to “call later” from assistants and were later ignored altogether.

Another official, who declined to be identified, said the guidelines forbade metallic items to prevent cheating through hidden devices, but had no answer when asked what device a pair of small buckles could hold.

Kannur police superintendent G. Siva Vikram told reporters: “Although no complaint has been received so far, we have ordered the special branch to investigate the matter.”

The student corroborated that the local police were in touch with her family.

In the state Assembly, several members sought answers and education minister G. Raveendranath promised an inquiry.

CPM Lok Sabha member P.K. Sreemathy described the girl’s ordeal as a “serious case of human rights violation”.

“A girl who has to write an exam after removing her underclothes would never be able to fare well in the exam,” she told reporters in Kannur.

More than 11 lakh would-be doctors and dentists took the NEET yesterday across India, with many falling foul of the dress code.

Reports said that many examinees in Tamil Nadu had to hurriedly cut their shirtsleeves at the centres because full sleeves are not allowed. Many had to take off their shoes and put on their parents’ sandals.

Pens, pencils and mobile phones had to be left behind – the centres provided alternative pens.

With age no bar, even 60-year-old register for MBBS entry

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For many undergraduate medical degree aspirants, age just seems to be a number. Two persons in the 61-70 bracket registered for the NEET exam for admission to MBBS and BDS colleges last year. At least another 100 candidates in the 41-60 age group took NEET 2016.

They do not seem to baulk at the fact that MBBS is one of the toughest courses to pursue in terms of duration and the amount of study required. The fear that many of them may not qualify has also not deterred them from taking their chances. After the Supreme Court recently lifted the age limit of 25 years for the national test, several have taken up the challenge to prepare for the exam which is just a month away. The petitioners at SC estimated the number of candidates above 25 years at 20,000.

A software engineer in the US who completed his MS from the University of Houston, Texas, is an aspirant this year. The 31-year-old NRI candidate said: “Lately, I have been trying to discover my passion and found that being a doctor does it for me. I am not sure if I will get selected, but I wish to try my level best. We were busy with the court case for almost two months. Now I wish to fully concentrate on my studies,” said the engineer, who is keen on getting an NRI seat in a Madhya Pradesh college.

K D Chavan, registrar of Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), said some of the candidates aged 30 and above want to pursue medicine as they are not happy with their current choice of profession. “I know of a friend who enrolled for CET at the age of 34 and is now an established pathologist,” he said.

Dr Avinash Supe, dean, KEM Hospital, said, “There are a few candidates who pursue super-specialty after a break. Very rarely we find people above the age of 30 in undergraduate programmes as it is difficult to cope with the syllabus. Some of these candidates may not be successful in other professions, some intend to follow their passion, and some marry early and then pursue a career in medicine,” said Supe.

Kanpur’s Andleeb Beg, 29, said he dropped out of BSc to pursue medicine. “I got a seat in a private college but the fee was too high. So, I have decided to try till I get a government seat. The CBSE circular capping the age of candidates was disheartening. But the court’s relaxation has come as a relief to many candidates like me,” said Beg. Uttar Pradesh’s Sabyasachi Rai, 27, a petitioner in the Supreme Court case, said the age cap was a disadvantage for many from a rural background who were not able to cope with the syllabus and had to try multiple times to clear the test. “Denying us an opportunity would mean denying us the right to education,” said Rai.

Dr Anand Rai, student activist and whistleblower in Madhya Pradesh’s admission and recruitment Vyapam Scam, said several candidates do not study the NCERT curriculum or are not from English medium schools and therefore end up re-appearing for the entrance test several times. “There are students who have studied in madrassas till the age of 10 and then joined mainstream schooling. Why should anyone be denied a chance?” asked Rai.
A Central government official, though, said the central board believes that many of these candidates may not be serious and allowing them to appear for the test will only encourage fraudulent means in the exam. “If a student wants to get into a post-graduation course, there should be no age limit. But for undergraduate courses in medicine, most are in the age group of 17-20 years. If the student has attempted the entrance test three or four times without success, he should look for some other career choice. Exams after Class XII should have an age criteria,” said the official.

Common Counselling At State Level Compulsory Now For UG And PG Courses

NEET 2017: For Medical Admission, Common Counselling At State Level Compulsory Now For UG And PG Courses

In a landmark decision, following the introduction of single medical entrance exam (NEET) in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has now made provision for common counselling at the State level for admission to medical courses at the under graduate (UG) and post graduate (PG) levels. As per the amendments made in the relevant regulations of MCI, the designated authority at the State/UT level shall conduct common counselling for all medical education institutions in the State whether established by the Central Government, State Government, University, Deemed University, Trust, Society, Company, Minority Institutions or Corporation.

According to the ministry, the move would bring in transparency in the admission process and curb the practice of capitation fee charged by private colleges. Further, a statement from the ministry also said that the students would not have to apply to multiple agencies for admission in the same State.

After NEET UG 2016 was conducted by CBSE, the Ministry had issued an advisory on 9 August 2016 in consultation with States and other stakeholders to the States to preferably conduct combined counselling for admission to MBBS courses for session 2016-17. At the instance of the Ministry, UGC had also directed all Deemed Universities that they shall also be part of common counselling for admission in common courses organized either by State Government / Central Government or through its agencies based on the marks obtained in NEET.

The advisory for common counselling at the State level was repeated December 2016 for admission to PG courses for the session 2017-18. The advisories were issued since counselling was not covered under any regulations and the entire admission process had evolved as an administrative mechanism. But now with the amendment notifications in Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997 and the Post Graduate Medical Education Regulation, 2000, enabling legal provisions have been made for common counseling, said the ministry statement.

The counselling for All India Quota seats at under graduate and post graduate level will continue to be conducted by the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the statement clarified.

4000 medical PG seats added to streamline medical education: PM Narendra Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the government has streamlined the medical education field and created 4,000 new post-graduate seats in medical colleges which would resolve the problem of lack of doctors.

“In our country, in the field of health there has always been a complaint that we do not have enough doctors. This is because we do not have a robust system to produce doctors,” Modi told a gathering which included medical students at the Surat airport after his arrival.

“If we go to the base of the problem, less number of students can get admission into post-graduate (courses in medical field) due to lack of seats, so only few become professors,” he said.

“As there are less (number of) professors, it has become difficult to open new medical colleges. The entire system is entangled in these circles,” Modi said.

“But we have streamlined it. We have increased 4,000 post graduate seats in one year. This is a big step in the country,” he said.

“Every year 4,000 new post-graduate students (apart from the number of seats already existing) will pass out now who can also become professors. This means they can impart medical education to thousands of students across the country which will solve the issue of shortage of doctors,” he said.

“With this we are confident that medical services will be available at village level as well,” he said.

The Prime Minister also praised the work being done to make cities and villages free from open defecation.

“A big work is being done in the urban development field in the entire country. I would like to congratulate the Gujarat government for making the cities open defecation free,” he said.

“Now, in the entire country 500 cities have been declared open defecation free. These cities created infrastructure to make it possible,” he said, adding that in the villages also the programme is going on in full swing.

Modi is on a two-day visit to the state during which he will attend a number of events and meetings.

He will inaugurate a national convention of women sarpanch in Gandhinagar, address an industry meet of OPAL project of ONGC in Dahej and inaugurate a four-lane bridge over Narmada river in Bharuch.

The PM will also visit the Somnath temple and attend a meeting of the temple trust.

Govt adds over 4,000 PG seats in medical colleges

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Centre has approved the addition of more than 4,000 seats in post-graduate courses in medical colleges this year to meet the rising demand for higher education in the healthcare sector.

The 4,193 seats approved on Thursday by the health ministry will come up in 71 government medical colleges across the country, taking the total number of post graduate seats available in the country to 35,117.

“It is an all-time record number of PG medical seats that have been approved by the government in various medical colleges and hospitals for the academic session 2017-18,” claimed a health ministry statement.

“This will further boost our resolve to strengthen tertiary care and improve medical education in the country,” health minister JP Nadda said.

The additions include in DNB seats, which are equivalent to MD/MS, which have been increased by 2,147 in the last one year.

At least 1,000 more seats are likely to be added this month, Nadda said, in reference to finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget announcement to add 5,000 seats in PG medical courses.

“We are likely to achieve the target soon,” said Nadda, adding that several colleges have sent proposals to add more seats, and these are being studied.

Government approves record 4000 PG medical seats for 2017-18 session

The government has approved a record number of over 4,000 PG medical seats in various medical colleges and hospitals for the academic session 2017-18. Of the total, 2,046 seats will be added to medical colleges.

With this, the total number of available PG medical seats has increased to 35,117.

Looking at the need to increase PG seats in clinical subjects, the government had decided to amend the teacher-student ratio for these subjects in government medical colleges.

This change alone has resulted in the creation of 1,137 extra seats in 71 colleges.

Many other government colleges, out of the total of 212, are still in the process of sending their proposals and it is expected that at least 1000 more seats will be added during the month of March 2017.

Diplomate National Board (DNB) seats, which are equivalent to MD/MS, have increased by 2,147 in the last one year.

Thus, there has been a total addition of 4,193 PG seats in the country so far, and a further addition of more than 1000 seats is likely during March 2017.

Once that happens, the Budget announcement of adding 5,000 PG medical seats in the country is likely to be achieved soon.

Why Doctors Need Humanities

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Author: Dr. Anand Krishnan

Medicine is defined as the art and science of healing. Today globally, science has largely overridden the art part of healing. In India, entrance to medical schools is based entirely on tests based on scientific facts and concepts with a little of logical/critical thinking – areas handled by the left side of the brain.

Our medical curriculum requires hours of drudgery in trying to remember facts and figures. Almost no medical school in India lays any emphasis on art in medical curriculum. The right side of the brain is concerned with fine arts including imagery, poetry and drawing. As someone said “medical school attracts those who are of left brain, but then proceeds to atrophy what is left of their right brain”.

Unlike physics or chemistry, medicine is not a pure science. Medicine is largely an applied science and it requires certain skills that are developed by observation, practice and experience – similar to the arts more than science. It can be said that medicine is science when it is used to study disease but becomes an art when it is used to practice healing.

While medicine has a long and distinguished history of caring and comforting, the scientific basis of medicine is recent. That medicine is a science is nevertheless the popular belief, and this has been reinforced by the advent of ‘evidence-based medicine’. Scientific truths are not true for all times, unlike truths in the field of the arts. In art there is no right or wrong but only a perspective or a point of view, whereas in medicine one being right or wrong is life determining.

Ideas on causation, diagnosis and management of diseases change with passage of time and advent of new technology or understanding. Even in a given time, one medical practitioner may have a genuinely different opinion of diagnosis and treatment about a particular case with respect to another colleague based on his or her experience and expertise.

With progress of science and its application, there has been a rapid decline in the human element of health care provision. The current technological advances have worsened this divide. The art of clinical medicine is dying in the present set-up with high-tech gadgets. The recent upsurge of doctors being abused and manhandled especially in casualties and emergencies is a consequence of this.

This is occurring not because of their lack of scientific knowledge but is related to their insensitive behaviour which emanates from their ignorance as well as inability to handle the emotional distress of sick individuals and their near and dear ones. Doctors should not allow scientific medicine to blunt their humanity, ignore ethics and the need for empathy.

A typical consultation today is of less than ten minutes and consists of a few cursory questions followed by a long list of investigations and medicines to be taken with poor explanation of whys and hows. Genuine doctor-patient relationships do not exist any longer. In early seventies, when the Framingham Heart study in United States subjects were being recruited through their doctors, most of them opined that while their own physician was a good one, others were no good – clearly an impossible phenomenon! Today in India even that is unlikely. Doctor-patient trust is at its lowest and doctor shopping is blatantly practised.

All doctor-patient interactions, whether these are in a hospital or in the community, require a caring attitude from the doctor coupled with communication. Today science has given doctors far more ammunition than ever before to fight disease, but the repeated bombarding has made them deafer than ever and they can no longer hear the cries of their patients. A good clinician is one who is armed with scientific knowledge, practices using clinical judgment, compassion and understanding.

In India, we need to reverse the pendulum that has swung fully to the science from the art side in medicine. An infusion of arts in medical education might be the solution to this all pervasive deafness of medical professionals. Many medical educationists have argued that art and literature should have a place in the medical curriculum because art helps doctors to understand experiences, illness and human values and that art itself can fulfill a therapeutic role.

This kind of education can help doctors grapple with the kinds of existential questions that they expect their patients to answer and that they themselves may not be equipped to answer. All medical colleges usually have a cinema and literary club. They do little to promote either cinema or literature. There is a need to go beyond these tokenisms and aim for some structural changes in medical education in India.

It is time the Medical Council of India or its newer avatar considers inclusion of arts in the medical curriculum from first year itself. The importance of humanities in medical education is being realised across the globe and steps are being taken to introduce it in medical schools. India should not be left behind.

Today patients in India are being squeezed between incompetence on one side (thanks to a floundering medical education industry) and corruption on the other (thanks to a commission culture set up by drug and investigative industry); and from the top by arrogance of medical professionals. Instilling empathy among medical practitioners may be the best way to start addressing all these malpractices jointly.

The writer is Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS. Views are personal

Students with PoK degrees left in the lurch

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Medical Council of India refuses to recognise their MBBS degrees, has disallowed them to write revalidation exam

Over 30 students from Jammu & Kashmir have been left at a crossroads after the Medical Council of India (MCI) refused to recognise the MBBS degrees acquired from medical colleges located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Speaking to PG Times from Muzaffarabad, the Capital of PoK, an MBBS student said, “I enrolled at the Azad Jammu Kashmir Medical College in 2012. After completing my degree, I applied to the MCI for degree validation and entry examination. I was disallowed to write the examination.”

Meritorious student

The student, a resident of Srinagar, was informed by MCI officials that only MBBS degrees from Pakistan, but not PoK, were recognised.

“I am a meritorious student. I secured an MBBS seat in Pakistan against my Class X (94%) and Class XII (92%) marks. Those who landed us in this situation should be held accountable,” the student added.

There are three medical colleges in PoK —Azad Jammu and Kashmir Medical College in Muzaffarabad; Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Medical College in Mirpur; and Poonch Medical College in Rawalakot. All were set up after 2011.

For years now, about 20 students are sent to medical colleges in Pakistan annually on the recommendation of separatist leaders and relatives of divided families in the Kashmir Valley. The children of slain militant commanders are also offered seats in Pakistani medical colleges.

Student protest

The PoK-based medical colleges, which are affiliated to both the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, have reserved 6% seats for students on this side of the Line of Control (LoC). Over 50 students from J&K are pursuing medicine in PoK currently.

The protest by Kashmiri students in 2016 had forced the PoK authorities to shift 18 students to medical colleges in Karachi and Punjab.

“I am left with no other option but to prepare for the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test in the United Kingdom. It’s an extremely costly affair and not all students can afford it. I am an only child and my parents are based in Srinagar, but I don’t want to practice in Pakistan,” said another student.

Srinagar-based lawyer Babar Qadri blamed the Hurriyat for the mess.

“Most students have been recommended by the Hurriyat and their careers are in jeopardy now. I appeal to the governments on both sides of the LoC to recognise each others’ degrees. When we can trade onions, etc., why can’t we exchange students?” said Mr. Qadri.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat spokesperson Shahid-ul-Islam told The Hindu that the Hurriyat “will look into the matter”.

Quotas for Kashmiris

“There are quotas only for Kashmiri students across the LoC and in Pakistan. I appeal to the SAARC nations to intervene in the matter and ensure that no student is victimised. At least education should remain above politics,” said Mr. Islam.

A bus service between J&K and PoK was allowed by India and Pakistan in 2005 and trade links restored in 2008 as part of the confidence-building measures. The links have made it easier for students to travel across for studies.

Niti Aayog wants axe on homoeopathy, ayurveda bodies

Niti Aayog wants axe on homoeopathy, ayurveda bodies

Continuing with its drive to streamline the country’s medical system, the Niti Aayog is expected to recommend scrapping of two more institutions — the Central Council of Homoeopathy (CCH) and the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM).

A senior government official told PG Times that the Aayog is working on two new bills suggesting ways to replace the two statutory bodies under the health ministry, which govern higher education in homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine including ayurveda.

A draft bill suggesting creation of an all-new body to replace the decades old statutory bodies is ready, but a final decision will be taken up by a Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya-led panel set up to suggest sweeping reforms in the department of Ayush under the health ministry.

Last year, the panel looked into the issue of poor regulation of education by Medical Council of India and proposed replacing it with National Medical Commission.

The proposal awaits the Cabinet approval, following which it will be tabled in Parliament. “Like the Medical Council of India, even these two statutory bodies have outlived their utility. Besides, they continue to unnecessarily complicate things because of stringent regulations, which makes it difficult to impart quality education in homoeopathy and ayurveda,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

According to the official, the Niti Aayog has completed stakeholder consultation on the two new bills and these would be soon put up for public opinion before they are finalised for the Cabinet approval.

CCH, a statutory apex body under the health ministry, was set up by the government in 1973 to monitor homeopathy education in India. This means any institution desiring to grant a qualification in homeopathy is required to apply to CCH, which prescribes course curriculum and maintains central registers of homoeopaths.

Similarly, CCIM, a statutory body under department of Ayush in the health ministry, was set up in 1971 under the Indian Medicine Central Council Act to monitor higher education in Indian systems of medicine, including Ayurvedua, Siddha and Unani.