Billed for change: amendments to the National Medical Council Bill


  • 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 Amendment:

  • 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.


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