NEW DELHI, JULY 24: Students and doctors from various medical colleges and hospitals in the city staged protest against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill by burning copies of it outside the AIIMS here.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of doctors and students in the country with around 3 lakh members, has given a call to all students across medical colleges to observe a 24-hour hunger strike on Wednesday as a mark of protest against the bill.
The Emergency Action Committee of the IMA opposed the NMC Bill 2019, which was introduced in Parliament on Monday, saying it has only undergone cosmetic changes and the core concerns raised by the doctor’s body are still unaddressed.
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. This is the single largest threat to the health of the nation, the IMA said in a statement.
“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,” said National president of IMA Santanu Sen.
He said this will prevent more than 50% 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% 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 provision to fix fee of private medical colleges capped to 50% of the seats has been further diluted to framing guidelines only.
Now, 100% 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,” RV Asokan, Secretary General of IMA, said.
“IMA opposes NMC Bill 2019 since it violates the following 6 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.
Meanwhile, the student wing of the IMA termed the bill as “anti-poor, anti-student and anti-democratic”, and said if passed it would lead to only Ministers and MPs running medical colleges across the country.
“In NMC, the Government has increased management quota seats above 50%, which simply means that you are selling MBBS seats. If you sell MBBS seats, an ordinary or poor individual cannot think about pursuing medical education. If this happens, the doctor’s avocation will be purchased, which is not acceptable,” Sharma said.
Raising similar concerns, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) RDA also opposed the bill.
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 medical education sector in the country.
The bill was first introduced in Parliament in December 2017, but lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.
“It is likely to come up for discussion in the Parliament on Wednesday,” an official source said.
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. (PTI)