By Arup Chanda
KOLKATA, India, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Aside from affordable customer items, from swanky cell phones to sleek Android tablets and even small Indian God idols of Ganesha, "Made in China" Indian doctors are now in demand in the country which has a shortage of medical practitioners, especially in the rural areas.
And this is primarily because getting a medical degree is much cheaper in China than in India.
For 20-year-old Anusree Ravi from Kerala, the dream of becoming a doctor was nearly dashed when she failed to qualify in entrance examinations for government medical colleges in India. And fees for private colleges including "capitation fees and donations" turned out to be beyond her parents' means.
Unwilling to give up her hope, Anusree decided to apply to medical schools in China where, she heard, the tuition fees were less expensive.
"When I inquired about course fees at private medical colleges in India, it was not affordable. But China was affordable for my parents," said Anusree, who has just completed the first year of MBBS at Wuhan University School of Medicine, situated in China's Hubei province.
"In my batch, there are about 70 south Indians and one north Indian, though my senior batches mostly come from the north India, " said Anusree, one of the 90 international students now studying medicine in China.
Like Anusree, Devu, Ameena Kamaruaheen and Balu Vallatheril are in various colleges in China, pursuing their dream to become physicians.
Ten years ago only a few students from India applied but soon the pace picked up and horde of Indian students began flocking to Chinese medical colleges.
Medical colleges in China are attracting an increasing number of Indians who dream of becoming doctors, most of them failed in competitive examinations given by Indian state-run and subsidized medical colleges. These students cannot afford the extremely high fees of private colleges either.
"The primary lure of government-run Chinese medical colleges is their cheaper fee. There is no capitation or donation, as is usually charged by private colleges in India," Neyas Mohammad, head of consultancy firm Asian Educational Consultancy, said.
In 2011, Asian Educational Consultancy placed 100 aspiring doctors from India in medical colleges in China, compared with about 60 in 2009 and 80 in 2010.
So far this year, Asian Educational Consultancy received applications from more than 150 medical students in India.
An official of the Chinese consulate here said that Indian students started to study medicine in China in 2008. Since then, many Indians have been going to China to take up medicine.
An MBBS course from a government medical college in China costs only about 1,500,000 rupees (27,278 U.S, dollars) to 2,000,000 rupees (36,364 dollars) including tuition fee, food and accommodation.
In India, just the tuition fee and donation in private colleges alone would amount to 4,500,000 rupees (81,818 dollars) to 7,500, 00 rupees (136,364 dollars).
Moreover, medical colleges in China have separate batches for Chinese and international students, where the medium of teaching is English.
The majority of the international students are Indians, mostly from India's southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some from north India.
In addition to affordability, Chinese medical colleges have robust infrastructure, advanced technology and good living conditions, according to students and doctors.
"Studying MBBS in China is not only less expensive than India, but colleges there also provide better facilities and teaching atmosphere," said Somasekharan, who got his MBBS degree from Wuhan University. He now works with the Government Medical College in Kerala.
At present, there are about 50 universities in China offering medical courses in English, though students have to learn Chinese as a compulsory subject to interact with patients.
After the United States, Britain and Australia, China is the fourth most popular destination among Indian students seeking a medical degree. "All other destinations are far more expensive than China. A five-year medical degree course will cost more than 10 million rupees (181,818 U.S. dollars) in the United States," said Neyas, a radiologist.
Prior to 1991, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Indian students who could not afford to go to the West would go there to study medicine as the medial schools in the Russia were heavily subsidized. But after reports of attacks or sexual harassment against some Indian female students, Indians now prefer to study in China.
Apart from China, other cheaper options for Indians to study medicine include Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Philippines. But China far surpasses others in terms of number of Indian students.
However, to be eligible to practice in India, doctors graduating from universities abroad have to pass a screening examination conducted by the National Board of Examinations under the directive of Medical Council of India.