The Lok Sabha of India made a change in the field of Medical Education which is being considered as one of the biggest reforms since the act passed in 1956. On 29 July, the Lok Sabha passed the contentious National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019. The bill proposes to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act and replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with the setup of an NMC.
This proposal has come forward because of the corruption charges made against MCI president Ketan Desai by the Central Bureau of Investigation in 2010. The bill faced tremendous criticism by opposition party members and more than 6,000 doctors hit the streets to protest. This protest is held outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. This NMC bill was introduced on 22 July 2019 in Lok Sabha.
The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare- Dr. Harsh Vardhan moved this bill in Lok Sabha on Monday. He said the genuine concerns regarding the NMC bill by the Union cabinet in the first half of this month have been addressed. The minister also claims that this bill will be one of the biggest reforms as the bill passed with 260-48 by a voice vote. The result developed a walkout by Opposition Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Trinamool Congress.
Several alterations proposed by Opposition members were rejected and because of which Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, the leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha said, “As the Government is not keen on passing any amendment suggested by us, we are walking out as we oppose it.”
According to the bill, NMC will approve and assess medical colleges. They will take care of common MBBS entrance and exit examinations and keep a check on course fees. The bill also proposes a common final-year MBBS exam which will be known as the National Exit Test or NEXT. This exam is to be written before any individual starts practicing medicine in India and also to seek admission for postgraduate medical courses. The exam is also like a screening test for foreign medical graduates so they can also practice medicine or apply for post-graduation courses.
The amendments of the bill state that the state governments to take required actions to promote and address primary healthcare in rural areas. According to these new amendments, the unauthorized practice of medicine is now more severe including imprisonment up to one year and a fine up to Rs. 5 Lakh. Also, NMC will regulate fees and all other charges in private medical colleges and deemed universities for 50% of the seats.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan added, “By bringing the bill the basic intention of the government is to ensure and restore the utmost standard of integrity in medical education. This will also end the inspector raj in the system”. Also, he postulates that the legislation is ‘pro-poor’ and would give more government seat opportunities along with 50% of all private seats available to the meritorious students, who belong to economically weaker classes of the society.
On the other hand, DMK leader A. Raja said the bill is “anti-poor, undemocratic, antisocial justice and anti-federalism”. He believes it would also encourage corruption and nepotism in the medical world, according to the statement he gave the press.
Opposition party member Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar also said that the bill opposes the basic principles of federalism by passing this bill we are putting the future of students at risk. She believes this exam will put students under undue pressure and is groundless.
The IMA has been opposing this bill since it was introduced in 2017. The other provisions of the bill such as including the merge of NEXT with National Eligibility cum Entrance Test and fee regulations by NMC for 50% seats in private medical institutes and deemed universities.
This draft when introduced in 2017 also made provisions for a bridge course for AYUSH practitioners for practicing modern medicine to a limited extent but after getting much criticism, the provision had been removed from the current passed NMC bill.