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Kill the profession, fill the coffers!

Prof.S. Balasubramanian
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Education business in India has crossed all the limits of morality, ethics and social responsibility as recent trend indicates. Recently AICTE has announced it is going to stop permission for new technical institutions as the education business is supersaturated. It is true and reflects in the less than 20% admissions in scores of engineering and management colleges of India. What was the reaction to this announcement of AICTE? Education entrepreneurs have started looking for the green pastures (courses) where they can get considerable admissions.

Unfortunately, with their eagle eyes, they found the pharmacy courses which are somewhat doing better than other technical courses in these days of struggle and competition among courses and colleges. As the result of it, hundreds of people have applied to Pharmacy Council of India [PCI] for starting pharmacy colleges. In Uttar Pradesh alone more than 300 persons sought permission to open D. Pharm colleges! Altogether there are 722 applications for starting new pharmacy colleges and another 51 for new pharmacy courses by existing colleges. This apart there are 141 applications received by PCI after the cut off date.

Backward state and forward profession
On the one hand it is heartening a most backward state in India (UP) has awakened at least now and try to open more colleges in the most populous state of India, on the other hand it is frustrating and irritating that the state has awakened so late, wasting more than 35 long years from the year other states permitted self-financing pharmacy colleges, thus impeding the forward movement of the profession and the country. No wonder other state people are thinking these states are the liability or burden for India! Selfish, corrupt politicians have to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.

Hundreds of engineering colleges in India which are on the verge of closure due to poor admissions try to convert into pharmacy colleges. That is to say, the education merchants have planned to switch over from not selling brinjal to ladies finger which is in demand time being - like a true and genuine businessman! Even if the demand for ladies finger falls due to excess of supply than the demand, they will start selling potatoes! But think of the profession and its standards! What will happen to it by this fly by wire people? This mad rush to start pharmacy colleges is at a time when PCI has already announced its intention to abolish D. Pharm course and planned to make B. Pharm degree as minimum qualification to practice the profession of pharmacy.

Acid test
Though PCI president has announced the above plan about one and half year back PCI activities are not showing any sign of implementing it. There is already wide suspicion among Indian pharmacists that PCI is for, by and of the private colleges of India. Many of its actions prove that. For example, though Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University (JNTU) of Telangana refused affiliation for few pharmacy colleges of the state this year for not having adequate specialist faculty, PCI happily agreed to permit non specialists to teach the particular subject (Pharmacognosy) and passed orders to that effect within a day of application that too not only for colleges where there was shortage but for the entire state! Similarly to give a pass to all students and thereby ensuring guaranteed admissions in the pharmacy courses of private colleges it is continuously diluting standards of pharmacy courses including the prestigious Pharm. D course as per the demands of private colleges. Remember? PCI is yet to implement new D. Pharm syllabus announced almost 2 years back though new syllabuses announced by it recently for B. Pharm and M. Pharm courses are implemented already. This may be for two reasons one is for good, that it is going to abolish D. Pharm shortly [so why unnecessarily implement new syllabus?], other reason may be to help the private college managements to give the easy pass as described below. Most probably the second may the reason if it is the first one they should not have invited applications for new D. Pharm colleges now, is it not? So let the old syllabus (ER 1991) of 26 years old continue! It may be a Guinness record, as no other professional course syllabus in the entire world might have such a long life! PCI can be proud of it!

Fence letting in the predators
Do you know if a D. Pharm student scores 21 marks out of 80 in a theory paper he is declared pass as 19 out of 20 is given by the majority of management as internal assessment mark to reach the pass mark of 40/100! This method of evaluation is there for the last 20 years and more. What is important is greedy private colleges demanded similar arrangement for Pharm. D course also and got it by influencing some universities, that too with a bonus! That is the internal marks is for 30 (not 20 as in D. Pharm) so that 29/30 can be given, just 21/70 in theory paper is sufficient for a pass! What a shame! Earlier it was a minimum of 50% individually in theory and internals. Is there anybody to protest and protect the profession? The fence is letting in the predators to destroy the crop! It looks the people concerned have decided to kill the profession to fill the coffers!

Where is the guarantee?
Thus it is obvious mushrooming of private pharmacy colleges going to kill whatever standard remaining with pharmacy courses. PCI president himself told the press people a few years back when AICTE gave permission to more than 300 pharmacy colleges in united Andhra Pradesh that ‘sufficient teachers are not available to teach in those colleges and AICTE is spoiling the standards of pharmacy education which the PCI wants to uplift’. But now instead of closing such colleges his office (PCI) is giving permission to engage non-specialists! What happened in between? Why such a huge difference between words and deeds? He has traveled a long distance indeed!

Where is the guarantee that PCI will not give same concession to the colleges applied now? Even if PCI refuse, will not those managements go to the court for equal treatment? Thus one blunder leads to hundreds later.

Wait and watch
Let us wait and watch how PCI is going to deal with those hundreds of new applications. If it is true to its words it should tell them its intention to close D Pharm and ask them to start B Pharm instead. One thing is certain as long as Indian pharmacists are turning a blind eye and mute spectators to the degradation of their profession there is no hope.

(Author is ex-president, Indian Pharmacy Graduates Association, Madurai, TN)


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