NEW DELHI: The Congress and Samajwadi Party on Thursday urged the government to withdraw a provision in the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill that aims to provide license to 3.5 lakh unqualified non-medical persons to practise modern medicine, saying it will "institutionalise quackery."
The bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha, was moved by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for passage in the Upper House despite stiff protest from the medical fraternity who fear it would lead to deterioration of medical education and degradation of healthcare services.
Suggesting three key amendments to the bill while initiating a debate in Rajya Sabha, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh urged the government to drop a provision which he said will "legalise quackery" under Section 32 of the bill and refer it to a Select Committee because this provision was not in the original bill that was vetted by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health.
Besides, he said the current representation of members in the NMC is against the interest of states.
Currently, the bill provides for representation of 14 members each from the Centre, six members from states and five to be elected from a medical background.
With this kind of representation, southern states like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will get an opportunity once in 12 years, he said, and suggested the government increase state representation to 15 at least in the commission.
Lastly, Ramesh demanded the government to amend a clause to ensure the NMC regulates fee for up to 75 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities instead of 50 per cent seats proposed in the bill.
"This provision will open floodgates to privatisation in medical education. I believe in privatisation. But I do not believe in privatisation in medical education," he said, and urged members irrespective of political party affiliation to support his amendments.
Noting that the intent of the bill is noble but the content is dangerous, Ramesh said, "Let us focus on content" and urged members irrespective of party affiliation to support his amendments There are 76,000 MBBS seats in the country, out of which 40,000 in government colleges and 36,000 in private sector.
Out of 36,000 seats, 30,000 seats are in private colleges and the rest 6,000 seats in deemed universities, he added.
Supporting Ramesh's amendment on scrapping Section 32 of the bill, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav -- who examined the bill as chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health -- said this provision need to be removed.
He also observed, "the bill is tilting the balance of power to the Centre" even as he suggested the government hold NEET counselling in a more transparent manner.
Earlier after moving the bill for passage, the Union Health Minister said out of 56 recommendations made by a parliamentary panel, the government has fully accepted 40 of them, seven partially and rejected nine of them.
Highlighting key features of the bill, the minister said there are some apprehensions by the Indian Medical Association and doctors but the bill will in no way cause "inconvenience to students".
He sought "unanimous" support to the bill, saying it is very important legislation to improve medical education in the country.
Participating in the debate, BJP leader Suresh Prabhu stressed on the quality of education and medical services in the country and the importance of conforming to national standards.