Mohammad Usman, 21, from Hussainabad of Uttar Pradesh has qualified the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) for the second time in a row. But he says that it was his need to walk with the support of a stick that led him to reappear for the examination conducted to screen eligible medical students.
Diagnosed with polio in his childhood, Mohammad cleared his Class X board examinations in 2015 with 84% marks and was also congratulated by the Government of India for his academic achievement.
However, even after scoring a national rank of 1655 in 2019, the odds of getting a seat in a medical college turned against him.
Despite being categorised as 50% specially-abled in the unique disability identity card by the government, Mohammad was declared ‘100% disabled’ by the doctors at the Vardhman Mahavir Medical College & Safdarjung Hospital (VMMCS), Delhi in 2019.
“I cleared the NEET entrance in June but was denied admission as the doctors said I was not ‘physically able’ to pursue my medical degree,” says Mohammad.
Mohammad says that he was shocked to hear this, but the doctors demanded a separate physical examination test results for his allowance.
Unfit to be a doctor?
“As per the rules, any person with a disability between 40% and 80% is allowed to pursue their studies. The 100% disability tag disqualified me. I was humiliated, and some even asked me — ‘how will you perform any surgeries or operations?’” Mohammad says.
The medical student says he tried to convince them by saying he could pursue other medical fields like being a physician or a general practitioner. But all was in vain.
Demotivated by the incident, Mohammad returned home. He was suggested to take up a teaching career by his friends or pursue another government job. His father, a mason who earned Rs 15,000 a month, suggested he take up paramedical or dental studies.
“But I was determined to pursue medical studies. Since childhood, I always dreamt of wearing the white coat as a doctor. I was not going to let my dream get away,” Mohammad says.
Moved by the determination of his son, Mohammad’s father bought a laptop for him to study during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
“I could not go for coaching classes and relied on YouTube to clear my doubts. There were some professors taking classes on the social media platform. In the meantime, I challenged the decision of the doctors at VMMCS at the Allahabad High Court. But my advocate did not prove to be much use and suggested to take it up with the Delhi High Court,” the student says.
The intense legal battle
Coincidently, Mohammad also learnt of an associate professor Satendra Singh—a teacher at
in Delhi—who guided him through the journey.
“The professor is also a specially-abled person, and I heard that he helps students like me fight the legal battle. So, I approached him for proper guidance,” Mohammad says.
Shuttling between the court dates and preparing for examinations that were rescheduled twice due to the pandemic, made studying a task,” Mohammad admits.
Mohammad attended three court dates in November 2019, and January and March of this year. “The admission period passed, and then the COVID-19 lockdown did not allow for any further hearings,” he adds.
However, in 2020, he cleared the examination with 1739 all India rank and scored the 79th rank in UP.
Mohammad then applied for another medical test. This time, he says, he applied to different centres to prove that his disability fell into the eligible criteria.
After pursuing two more tests with different centres, Mohammad was proved 86% disabled in one while, the second centre declared him 80% disabled. “Thus it cleared the doubts about my disability and made me eligible for the course,” he says. Mohammad has now confirmed a seat at Basti, a government medical college in UP, to study MBBS.
After receiving his placement letter, the aspirant withdrew his plea from the court.
‘Disability in the mindset’
Satendra says that the system makes aspirers like Mohammad feel harassed and humiliated. He says, “Despite having a unique disability card, Mohammad has to undergo another test, and there will be one more before he starts his college at the state level. Specially-abled students have to prove their disability again and again.”
The professor says the students should be directly allowed to the college where they have to undergo tests only once. “Declaring someone 100% disabled means Mohammad literally would be approaching the medical centre on a stretcher or a wheelchair. But he used only a stick for support,” adds the professor.
Satendra says that the government medical doctors at the helm of Directorate General of Health Services involved in the selection process should celebrate such students rather than putting them through hardships and discouraging them. “Specially-abled doctors are said to be more compassionate towards patients because their experience allows them to offer better care. We need more doctors like Mohammad,” Satendra adds.
Mohammad feels that it is the “disability in the mindset” of the people that does not allow acceptance and opportunities for the vulnerable. “Never in my life was I made to feel that I am specially-abled until I stood in front of the doctors who screened me. I was always motivated by my friends and parents to pursue anything I wished,” Mohammad says.
“Satendra sir encouraged me at every step and asked me never to feel weak,” Mohammad signs off, adding that he aims to become a neurologist someday.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)