- The union cabinet approves changes in the National Medical Commission (NMC) bill.
Changes in the NMC Bill:
- These changes address some of the loudest criticisms of the Bill.
- Among them, the final year MBBS exam is now merged with an exit exam for doctors, and a contentious bridge course for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy) practitioners has been axed.
- Health-care experts had recommended other modifications, which the Cabinet ignored.
- The amendments cleared by the Cabinet also increase State representation in the NMC from three part-time members to six, in what seems like a gesture to please the States.
- Contrast this with the parliamentary committee’s recommendation to include 10 State representatives, given India’s vastness.
- Another amendment that doesn’t go far enough is the decision to raise the proportion of private college seats for which fees will be regulated from 40% to 50%.
- The fees for unregulated seats could then skyrocket, pushing poorer medical aspirants out of the system.
A new era for medical education in India:
- Despite these deficiencies, if passed by Parliament, the legislation will mark a new era for medical education in India.
- The next step will be to design rules and regulations that capture the intent of this law.
The Way Forward:
- Throw in the enormous inter-State variations in medical education across India, and the challenge is obvious.
- Lawmakers will have to tackle this gigantic task in a slow and phased manner.
- Another concern is that under the new amendments States now have the freedom to implement an AYUSH bridge course, even if no longer mandatory.
- The coming days may see many more protests against the NMC Bill, perhaps delaying its passage and prompting further discussion. For a Bill that marks the first major reform in medical education since 1956, such an extended debate is not a bad thing.