Why MBBS in Hindi is a futile exercise

MBBS in Hindi is a Futile Exercise

There is no rational explanation for providing medical education in Hindi, and a solution has been created where no problem existed in the first place, writes Aqsa Shaikh.
First Published: Oct 19,2022 09:52PM
by Aqsa Shaikh

Union Home Minister Amit Shah with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan in an event launching MBBS books in Hindi language | Photo courtesy: Social media

Write “Shri Hari” instead of Rx on prescriptions, said Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, at the launch of Hindi Textbooks for three medical subjects taught in the first year of MBBS. This was part of the launch of MBBS in Hindi in all 13 Medical Colleges of Madhya Pradesh as an ‘experiment’ helmed by Amit Shah, who heads the Parliament’s Committee on Official Languages. A few days back, this Committee recommended providing technical education, preferably in Hindi and other State languages instead of English, calling it a foreign language.

Dr Arun Gupta, President of Delhi Medical Council, speaks on MBBS in Hindi

There is no rational explanation for providing medical education in Hindi, and a solution has been created where no problem existed in the first place. Getting admitted into a government medical college in India is highly competitive, and to say that such students who crack one of the toughest entrance exams cannot learn English is casting aspersions on their talent. 

The National Medical Commission (NMC) has looked into the issue of poor English and computer skills of a section of medical students and introduced English and Computer classes in Foundation Course in MBBS. There are many reasons why MBBS in Hindi being forced on medical students in Madhya Pradesh is a bad idea.

“I did my schooling in a small town in Madhya Pradesh in Rewa. Everyone from my batch was from a Hindi background. It only took us a couple of months to get used to the working language that was required in medical education. Medical science is in English, and we can’t convert everything into Hindi. Those countries that have even attempted this have failed miserably.” Dr Arun Gupta President, Delhi Medical Council

National and International compatibility

The NMC says that an Indian medical graduate should be able to serve patients and communities not just in India but also in other countries. Those who do MBBS in Hindi will fail to serve patients who do not speak Hindi. India has been one of the most significant contributors to the doctors’ pool that provides services in countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and the Middle East. A doctor with MBBS in Hindi will not have the competitive advantage to undergo licentiate exams and practice in other countries.

But China and Russia are doing it

Examples of Medical Education in other countries where English is not the primary language have often been cited while pushing for MBBS in Hindi. It is a false comparison. India is not China or Russia. India is a country where modern evidence-based medicine was introduced by British doctors, who set up a medical education system that we have used for the benefit of humanity for centuries. So now, to say that this English-language medical system is a slave to English would be a joke. If the country wishes to get rid of the English system, then will our government get rid of the English system of democracy, courts, laws, railways, and IAS? It may also be noted that many colleges in Russia and China have started offering MBBS in English to cater to the demand for medical education from foreigners (mostly Indian students). While even countries like Bangladesh offer MBBS to foreign students, it is only restricted to Indian and NRI students in India.

English-educated teachers for Hindi education?

To teach MBBS in Hindi, we are using teachers who themselves learned MBBS in English. No training has been provided to these teachers in teaching medical sciences in Hindi. The translated medical textbooks, which are mostly transliterated, are a joke – you need more than three textbooks in the first year of MBBS. The read and recommended textbooks are not the ones that have been translated. There is no curriculum available in Hindi for the first year. It is also not clear if the students will write exams in English or Hindi.

Communication in the team

A doctor doesn’t just need to communicate with a patient but also with other team members like nursing staff, colleagues, other doctors to whom they are referring patients, and paramedical workers. Even paramedical and nursing courses are happening in English while the poor medical student of Madhya Pradesh is made a guinea pig in this experiment. How will such a doctor be able to communicate with the team which comes from English education? A medical doctor must also read medical journals, be present at conferences, and write papers – all in English. How will the new medico cope with it?  

“Modern medical science is in English and is not native to our country. Inherently it is in English. Indian doctors are one of the best in the world. Many countries depend on Indian doctors because we are totally in tune with modern medical science. That is because we read literature from across the globe in English. This hyper-nationalistic exercise is not going to help the profession.” Dr Arun Gupta President, Delhi Medical Council

What about NMC?

A few years back, the government replaced the Medical Council of India with NMC. NMC regulates Medical Education in India. It is surprising to see that NMC is silent on this issue. Last year, NMC did not permit teaching medicine in Hindi. This year, it seems permission is not even sought from NMC, and this grand agenda is pushed forward not by the Health Minister of India but by the Home Minister, who has nothing to do with Medical Education. In addition to NMC, State Medical Councils also do not recognise MBBS degrees in other languages. So, where is the permission, if any, to launch MBBS in Hindi?

Misplaced Priorities

Madhya Pradesh is one of the worst performers in all the health indicators. Numerous vacancies for the posts of healthcare workers are not yet filled in the state. There is a poor budgetary allocation for health and medical education and no focus on tribal health – the state has the highest tribal population in India, many of whom do not have Hindi as their mother tongue. Instead of focusing on increasing medical human resources, creating conducive policies that motivate medicos to serve in tribal areas, and improving healthcare infrastructure and services, the Madhya Pradesh Government seems to be biding time conducting such futile experiments with students’ medical careers.  

NMC – Time to Wake Up?

This whole episode has raised concerns about the effectiveness of NMC, which seems to be sleeping on the issue. There are larger priorities in medical education that need addressing by NMC. Medical educators are grappling with the implementation of the newly introduced competency-based Medical Education in the country. Additionally, they were asked to undertake a family adoption program, implement yoga classes, a district residency program, and even AYUSH training for MBBS Students. Then there is the issue of dealing with learning loss accrued given the Covid-19 pandemic that affected in-person classes and clinical exposure of medical students. There are also issues related to rising suicides and poor mental health among medical students, and improper implementation of some vital topics in Medical Education – like Mental Health, Disability Health, Gender Health, and Palliative Health. The Ukraine-Russia war has put thousands of medical students out of colleges. But these burning issues get little to no importance. 

Copycat Mistakes

The introduction of MBBS in Hindi is an experiment that should not have been started in the first place. On the heels of Madhya Pradesh, other states like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are also considering the introduction of Hindi MBBS. If this continues, you may have every state teaching MBBS in their respective languages – how do these doctors become national and global healthcare providers? Further, there are plans to introduce even engineering courses in Hindi. Where will this stop?

Saffronisation of Medical Education?

In the last few years, we have seen many instances of saffronisation of Medical Education. Yoga is being made compulsory for students of Modern Medicine. There is a compulsory posting in AYUSH for MBBS students. AYUSH doctors have been allowed to practice Modern Medicine. We have seen how the former Health Minister himself endorsed a questionable product by Patanjali during the pandemic. The medical oath was attempted to be replaced with Charak Shapath. Prescriptions can start with Shri Hari instead of Rx, we are told.

To summarise, the government, as part of its ‘nationalistic’ agenda, which includes ‘Hindi supremacy’, is attempting to make Hindi the national language at the cost of others. In doing so, it is making scapegoats of young medical students by coaxing them to learn medical sciences in Hindi in an ecosystem that has used an English-based modern medical education system for centuries. Such an experiment is bound to fail and lead to a batch of doctors who cannot be good team leaders and communicators, work as national and international physicians and suffer from an inferiority complex which this aimed to solve in the first place. The Indian government needs to focus on more vital issues like extreme levels of malnutrition in the country, unregulated drug manufacturing, or even the mental health of healthcare providers rather than derail a relatively well-tuned system.

Dr Aqsa Shaikh (She/Her) is an out and proud trans woman. She is one of India’s first transgender doctors. She is an Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Nodal Officer for Covid Vaccination Centre, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Jamia Hamdard, Delhi. Aqsa is an academician and researcher and is a vocal advocate for rights-based gender justice for transgender persons.


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