NEW DELHI: The government has made its intention clear that it's not backing down on the contentious National Medical Commission bill but the unwavering stance triggered a fresh round of protests by the medical fraternity as the Indian Medical Association observed a token strike on Saturday.
IMA had asked its members throughout the country to withdraw non-emergency services for 12 hours and claimed the call was "successful", mainly in tier 2,3,4 cities and smaller towns. NMC draft bill that is slated to be introduced in the Parliament this session seeks to replace the Medical Council of India with a 29-member commission, has provisions like a common final year MBBS examination that will double up as exit test and flexibility to private medical colleges to decide fee for up to 50 per cent seats.
Claiming "moral victory" over the government, its president Ravi Wankhedkar said that "the struggle against the bill" will continue. "Actually withdrawal of non-emergency services was only a warning signal to the government," he said.
"We will intensify our agitation if the government tries to bulldoze this pro-rich, anti-democratic, anti-federal NMC bill which will promote corruption. We appeal to the Prime Minister to intervene to protect the interest of marginalized and underprivileged sections of the society."
Several doctors have stressed that the new regulatory provision will mean that those 50 per cent of the seats in the private medical colleges will go to the highest bidders-shutting the door for the less privileged ones.
"The cost of medical education in the country will escalate many folds and will become unaffordable to even the upper middle classes of people. Taste of what was to come was seen in Uttarkhand and Maharashtra where the management raised the fee to around 25 Lakhs per year for MBBS," Wankhedkar said.
The marginalisation of state governments, state medical councils, state health universities and state medical graduates cannot be ignored. It is a direct threat to the federal nature of our constitution, IMA has contended.
A Marthanda Pillai, action committee chairman of the association expressed concern that the NMC will function as an extended government department. "Autonomy of regulation is the right of the medical profession.
Allowing bureaucrats and non-medical persons to trample with the regulation of medical education and practice is a nightmare," he said. The association is also in talks with other speciality organisations, resident doctors organisations, service doctors organisations and medical students to join its protests in the next phase.