New Delhi: Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday favoured proposal increasing the duration of the MBBS course from 5.5 years to 6.5 years. The Union Minister further stated that the Medical Council of India is working on the proposal.

"I don't mind increasing the duration of MBBS to 6.5 years. In the US, students have to go for six years of additional study as compared to Indian students to be able to prescribe medicines and practise. What is the harm in having one more year of MBBS study in India," he said when asked what the Government was doing about the proposed MCI move.

The Minister said mandatory rural posting for doctors was also being mulled. "Yes we are thinking on those lines. We are short of seven lakh doctors in villages," he said.

The proposed one year increase in MBBS duration is being contemplated to set aside the additional year for mandatory rural service of MBBS graduates.

The proposal is to award the MBBS degree only after the completion of 5.5 years of regular MBBS course and one year of rural posting which would be linked to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The proposal comes in the wake of poor healthcare facilities in rural India and government aiming at providing better medical treatment and facilities to the rural population.

The government has also focussed much attention on its flagship NRHM program, on which a major chunk of the country's health budget is spent for provision of improved healthcare facilities in rural areas of the country.