Mindless govt rule forces scientist to sit at home, loses top US job

Hapless scientist gets reprieve from Bombay High Court, but it could already be too late


Here is an unfortunate story of how a mindless act by the government can severely shatter our dreams and career.

Last year, Dr Sunil Noothi, was at the top of his game. 40-year-old, Noothi, had migrated to US in 2013 to join the University of Kentucky’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics as a scientist. He was working on a 1 million dollar funded pre-clinical research project on mouse model to find new cure for treating blood cancer.

However, two and half years into the project, Noothi’s dream and career was shattered when he was forced to return to India. A mindless rule enforced by the Government of India crashed Noothi’s bright future.

In August 2013, ministry of health and family welfare, in what it claimed was an attempt to stop brain drain in the health sector decided to stop issue No Obligation to Return to India (NORI) certificates to MBBS doctors studying in US. Non-issuance of NORI certificates would mean doctors who wish to pursue further studies or jobs in US after completing their education would have to mandatorily stay in India for two years before returning back to US.

In December 2015, Noothi being an MBBS was forced to return to India. “I have literally lost my job and 3-4 years of my career because of ‘No Obligation to Return to India (NORI) certificate’,” laments Noothi.

“I was working on a pre-clinical research project on mouse model to find new cure for treating blood cancer. After two and half years of work on the project, when the research work was at its peak, I had to leave it and return to India,” said Noothi.

He said a year has passed and his seniors want to hire someone at his place to finish the research. “It is a five year project with a funding of 1 million dollar and December 2017 is the deadline. With me not there, they are planning to hire someone else at my place,” said Noothi, who is now staying with his parents in Karnataka.

In last one year, Noothi said he met top politicians including Venkaiah Naidu, the Union Minister of Urban Development to reconsider his application. “My application was rejected thrice- once by the HRD ministry and twice by the ministry of health and family welfare. Dejected, I filed the petition in Bombay High Court,” said Noothi.

After a year’s struggle, on December 20,  he Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench gave decision in his favour saying although he is a doctor, he should not be brought under the ambit of Union government’s decision of not issuing NORI certificates to Indian medical students studying in the United States (US). Noothi however says, he doesn’t know whether to celebrate the decision or not. “The Court has given the government six months’ time. By then, it will be too late for me. Someone else will take away my work credit,” said Noothi.

Talking about the Government’s effort to bring back doctors practicing in US through NORI, Noothi said it doesn’t serve the government’s purpose of stopping brain drain of doctors but harassment of researchers like him. “Indian doctors practicing in US do not require NORI. There is a rule in US wherein they can serve in rural areas of US for three years and get a waiver of NORI certificate submission. Most of my Indian doctor friends practicing there has done that,” said Noothi.