A section of medical fraternity is opposing the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, stating new Bill has got only cosmetic changes compared to its earlier version.
Terming the new Bill “anti-student” and “anti-poor”, doctors and medical students under the Indian Medical Association (IMA) recently staged a protest outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi. Protest has been reported from other parts of the country as well.
The bill was first introduced in Parliament in December 2017, but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. The Government has reintroduced the Bill again with some changes this time.
Provisions in the Bill
The NMC Bill provides for the constitution of a 25-member NMC selected by a search committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, to replace the existing Medical Council of India.
The bill proposes a common final year MBBS examination, to be known as National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining license to practice medicine.
It would also act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates, official sources said.
Besides this, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and the NEXT will be applicable to institutes of national importance like AIIMS in order to achieve a common standard in the medical education sector in the country.
It provides for setting up of a National Medical Commission (NMC) in place of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and repeal of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
Why IMA opposing the Bill?
IMA, the largest body of doctors and students is unhappy with many previsions of the Bill including increasing management/NRI quota to more than 50%, bridge courses, and non-democratic structure.
Though the deleterious clauses have been retained in the bill, the addition of Section 32 that legalises quackery by empowering community health providers to practice medicine will only endanger the lives of people, a statement from IMA said.
“The decision to couple NEXT and NEET lacks clarity and is absurd. While the licentiate examination will give license to the minimum qualified person to practice medicine, NEET will be selecting the best students aspiring for post graduate medical education,” National President of IMA Santanu Sen was quoted as saying by PTI.
He said this will prevent more than 50 per cent of the qualified MBBS graduates from practicing modern medicine.
“This will also give rise to quackery as the government will allow the quacks, who are hardly 30 per cent of the total doctor’s population to practice under the pretext of ‘Shortage of Doctor’,” Sen said.
“The IMA at all costs is against the decision as this will also increase health safety concerns of the common people. The government in their wisdom are refusing license to practice to qualified MBBS graduates coming out of our medical colleges every year, but promoting indirect quackery,” he said.
The other clause includes a provision to fix fee of private medical colleges capped to 50 per cent of the seats has been further diluted to framing guidelines only.
Now, 100 per cent of the private medical seats will be deregulated regarding the fee subject to non-binding guidelines. Medical education in the country will become expensive placing the lower socio-economic groups in great disadvantage.
“This effectively removes poor and middle class reckoning for such seats. However, lack of clarity on implementation has jeopardised the decision itself,” R V Asokan, Secretary General of IMA, said.
“IMA opposes NMC Bill 2019 since it violates the following six cardinal principles of autonomy, exclusivity, patient safety, right to democracy, federalism and equal opportunities,” he said.
Taking into account that more than 279 out of India’s 500 plus medical colleges are in the private sector and the eligibility criteria to open a medical college has been further diluted to include all the companies and even private partnerships, the commercialisation of India’s medical education is complete.
“There has never been a blatant pro rich bias of this intensity. The NMC Bill is a pro-private management bill paving the way for widespread corruption,” Rajan Sharma, National President-Elect, IMA, said.