Wednesday, July 11, 2018

‘ICMR spends Rs 5.82 crore, fails to suggest policy changes

Times of India: Nagpur: Wednesday, July 11, 2018.
Even after spending a whopping amount of Rs5.82 crore, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has failed to give, even a single suggestion to Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in last five years, to make policy changes. Multiple queries under the RTI by a MBBS final year student Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sevagram, has led to this startling revelation came to light.
ICMR is the apex body for research under Government of India and one of the oldest biomedical research body in the world. It has initiated the short-term studentship (STS) programme for MBBS students in 1979 and every year thousands of medical students apply for this research grant.
In reply to Mohamed Khader Meeran’s queries, ICMR informed that it received 22,085 applications for STS programme in last five years (2012-2017). After evaluation of study reports, 5,226 reports were finally approved. Each student, whose final report of research is approved by ICMR, are granted a studentship of Rs10,000 (Rs5,000/month for two months). It’s estimated that, Rs5.2 crore rupees was spent as research grants in last five years under STS scheme.
“Every medical student completing STS research, feels that he has given some valuable suggestions to improve health system. I was shocked to know all our study reports are lying useless in folders of ICMR,” said Meeran.
ICMR grants studentship for STS reports, only after careful screening and plagiarism checking by group of experts. “Those valuable suggestions given by thousands of students should be utilized in appropriate way to improve our health system. If nothing is possible, ICMR should at least publish those reports in a separate journal or website,” he added.
According to Dr Indrajit Khandekar, in-charge of Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit (CFMU) at MGIMS, who guided Dheeran, India is lagging behind developed countries in terms of research. “More than half of the annual total budget allocation to ‘department of health research’ goes to ICMR only. Though ICMR’s expenditure goes to different research projects, significant amount of fund is spend every year on research grants like STS. Crores of rupees are spent on giving these grants since 1979, without any benefit,” he pointed out.
According to him, India contributes one fifth of the world’s share of diseases. He said the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare in its 100th report on “Demands for grants (2017-18) of department of health research” observed that, “one of the vital elements in improving the health status is by a relevant research base that would equip policymakers to take informed health policy decisions”.