IMC Bill gets LS nod, Centre calls it 'pro-public'
New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) A Bill that aims at bringing transparency, accountability and quality in the governance of medical education in the country was unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday amid protests by the opposition who called it an act of "diluting power" from the doctors' fraternity to the government.
The Bill got approval of the Lower House after 260 members voted in favour and 48 against. The Bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha to cross its final hurdle before becoming a law.
Asserting that it is one of the "greatest major reforms" for the future of the country, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is "pro-public" and it would bring down the cost of medical education.
The Bill proposes a common final-year MBBS examination, known as National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining a licence to practice medicine.
Besides this, the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and NEXT would be applicable to institutes of national importance like AIIMS in order to achieve a common standard in medical education in the country.
The Bill provides for supersession of Medical Council of India (MCI) for a period of two years with effect from September 26, 2018. It had lapsed after it was introduced in 16th Lok Sabha. The Cabinet had approved the Bill on June 12 to replace the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Second Ordinance, 2019 through an Act of Parliament.
Arguing on behalf of the government for its passage, Harsh Vardhan said the Bill seeks to put in place a new structure to tackle challenges in the medical education sector.
"This Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC). Within three years of the passage of the Bill, state governments will establish State Medical Councils. The NMC will consist of 25 members, appointed by the Centre. A common final-year MBBS exam called NEXT will be introduced," the Minister said.
He said the Bill would replace MCI with NMC to reform the medical education sector and also seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act 1956. "The genuine concerns over the Bill have been addressed and the legislation will be one of the biggest reforms."
He said for every institution in the country, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a student will have to appear for just one exam now and on the basis of merit of the exam he or she can get admission into a PG (Post Graduation) course.
Before the Lok Sabha Speaker announced the passing of the Bill from the House, Congress members staged a walkout from the House expressing their disagreement.
Other opposition parties including TMC, YSR Congress, DMK and NCP opposed the Bill.
Asking the government to withdraw the Bill, Congress's Manish Tewari said the constitution of autonomous boards and the NMC presents a conflict of interest and accused that a "certain clause has been designed to attract retired bureaucrats".
Congress's Vincent H. Pala said the Bill is a "dilution of power" from the doctors' fraternity to the government.
YSR Congress' Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu said that India produces 65,000 medical students every year, but as per the population it should have a higher number.
Opposing the Bill, DMK's A. Raja said the way the Bill has been brought is "undemocratic" and that "it has been brought without any respect for constitutional rules".
"This bill is against the Constitution and makes a mockery of medical system. How the government plans to eliminate corruption in the MCI?".
Trinamool Congress's Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said that the introduction of the NEXT examination takes away all the work that students have done up until then.
In response to a call from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), doctors and students from various hospitals and colleges protested in the national capital alleging that the NMC Bill will only give a boost to quacks.
They alleged that Section 32 of the proposed NMC Bill will intensify quackery by rural medical practitioners, private medical practitioners and others.
IMA President Santanu Sen said the "government will have blood on its hands" if Section 32 of the NMC Bill 2019 was not removed.