Dr. Umesh Sharma, Chairman of the Veterinary Council of India (VCI), urges students to opt for the Bachelor of Veterinary Science course and study it with full conviction as animals and birds deserve good doctors just as much as humans. He also informs Education Post’s Tanay Kumar about the newly launched VCI portal which will greatly help those in this profession.
When did you come to know about veterinary science and what was your motivation behind opting for this subject?
I belong to a family of farmers from Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh and one knows that any farmer in India, usually, at large, has a couple of bullocks or cows or buffalos. So, my belonging and upbringing have been from that background and it really made a good influence on me. Further, even if one reads our sacred scriptures, like Shrimad Bhagvadgeeta, Lord Krishna has said that I live in every living creature of this world.
Further, we cure those who can speak about their ailments and problems, but what about those who can’t make humans understand about their disease? So, being a veterinary doctor is a very noble profession in my view. I had watched my parents, Shiv Narayan Sharma and Shakuntala Sharma, took care of our cattle. In a normal farmer family, cattle are a crucial part of their livelihood. So, my surroundings really made a noble impression on me.
This year, on the occasion of World Veterinary Day 2023, Parshottam Rupala, Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy, launched the VCI Portal. How will this portal help veterinary doctors?
The portal was launched for a bigger and efficient cause to have a kind of one-platform-solution for veterinary doctors in India. Many states have different criteria to accredit veterinary doctors in our country. For example, some states register the veterinary doctors via online methods, while some do it offline.
Further, just like doctors of human physiology do in different body parts, example ear, lungs, liver, kidney and many more. Similarly, it would be really beneficial for the country to have a single portal where we could know which doctor has done specialization or Ph.D. in which animal.
Further, geographical mapping of those veterinary doctors around the country is also another ambition of this portal. For example, it would show that in this particular locality, area of the country, these are the veterinary doctors who have done specialization in these animals. It would really help the common citizen to get the doctors easily in their area.
And, the portal aims to bring all the colleges of veterinary at a single window where they could register their institutions and the professors’ specialization, which would further help the students of veterinary science. Further, there was not a very robust and efficient window of information of veterinary hospitals. So, this portal would further address this situation.
There are lots of discourses around increasing the duration of the study of veterinary science. What are your viewpoints on this issue?
When I was the VCI Chairman back in 2016, I wanted to make it 5.5 years and dedicate a separate six months internship in the course. Second, the internship used to be at the state level and we enhanced its ambit for the national level. I firmly believe that students must be aware of the specialities of the veterinary science of the whole country, that is, which state has large number of a particular animal, or which state has a lesser number.
Further, we have made a proper standard model that a student has to complete his internship for at least three months in villages as we all know that villages possess the lion’s share of the cattle and other pet animals. In European countries, the duration to have specialization in veterinary science is usually eight to nine years.
And the study of veterinary science entails a student to study many animals and not to forget, every animal has its own physiology and biology, example the physiology of a dog is totally different than a cat, if I take a very commonly available example, while there are way more than just these two. In the future, we will introduce diploma studies dedicates to different animals and streams, aiming to enhance the knowledge and research of veterinary doctors in India.
Low stipend is paid to veterinary researchers, compared to MBBS and other medical researchers. What are the viewpoints of VCI on this issue and what are the steps VCI is taking to fix this discrimination?
VCI has requested in written to every state government to endow the stipend of veterinary doctors equal to medical and other doctors. And, thanks to the Supreme Court that it gave the verdict in this favor that a veterinary researcher should get equal stipend to a medical or MBBS doctor.
Most of the states have started paying the stipend in that amount, and we are constantly in process to convince other states that they also pay equal stipend to the veterinary researchers. I am sure that in the coming six months, there will be uniformity in the stipend of a veterinary researcher and a medical researcher.
Issue of permanency of contractual mobile veterinary doctors is still an issue among many veterinary doctors and even those who are studying B.V.Sc. What are your views on this issue?
I will commend the government of India to introduce a policy on mobile veterinary doctors. See, a buffalo, a cow, a horse, a bullock and many other animals are really heavy to transport to any hospital. So, it’s way easier to have a mobile veterinary doctor at the site than transporting a big animal, which most of the times, farmers are not able to either afford.
The responsibility of workforce and their permanency or contractual employment depends upon the state governments. Some states even hired some agencies to operate those mobile veterinary medical care. In fact, the government of India has proposed that those mobile veterinary doctors would get around Rs. 55,000 per month. Now, this responsibility lies on the state governments to implement and work on these rules.
VCI believes that this whole process and rule should be implemented so that students of veterinary science could do more service to the nation. In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has taken the entire responsibility and it has been running a better course.
After COVID-19, discourse and debates on zoonotic diseases have scaled up. Your take?
Before answering this, I would bring it to light that even before the creation of the World Health Organization in 1945; World Animal Health Organization was set up in 1924. It shows that scientists were concerned even then for zoonotic diseases. Many of the diseases that we humans get, are zoonotic.
Now, coming to the question, in this regard, infrastructure is very important, combined with proper diagnostic laboratories and adequate surveillance facilities. Along with that, the morphology of those diseases and coordination with human physiology are very important. So, this must be addressed first. There are standards and regulations for veterinary practitioners and they should be followed properly. How will a vaccine for any zoonotic disease be devised if there are no labs and workforce?
Proper and timely utilization of funds is another very critical thing to pay attention. Recently, five Indian states have received some projects from the World Bank Group. Building necessary infrastructure is going to be the key issue of those projects. Building both the capacity and the capability of the workforce is indispensable.
What would be your message to colleges that are offering B.V.Sc. and students who are studying this subject?
I would urge the students to study this course with your full conviction and integrity. It is hard, but hard work surely and inevitably pays one day. Plus, your knowledge will save lives of those who can’t speak for themselves. So, if you study with your full conviction, it will save lives and it is a very noble profession.
Colleges, first of all, must bring together their students and those who are doing great in this field, to make them engage in a conversation and discourse, whether they are in the veterinary or other departments like forest, animal husbandry, environment etc. Bringing them together in conversation will surely inspire the students to keep on doing good work.