Plan to replace MCI with new regulator faces fresh hurdle

The Asian Age.  | Teena Thacker and Animesh Singh

India, All India

The GoM was formed at a time when the proposal of setting up the NMC was all set to be sent for Union Cabinet’s approval.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Niti Aayog’s ambitious proposal of replacing the controversial Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission (NMC) seems to be staring at an inordinate delay before it becomes a reality. The proposed body, which was envisioned to clean up and reform the medical education system of the country, was in March referred to a group of ministers (GoM) to further study its blueprint and this ministerial panel is learnt to have suggested inclusion of “elected representatives” in the proposed body.

The GoM was formed at a time when the proposal of setting up the NMC was all set to be sent for Union Cabinet’s approval. While this development was seen as a delaying tactic, sources aware of the development said that if the suggestion of having “elected representatives” in the proposed NMC is accepted, then the new body may become quite like the MCI, which faced allegations of a set coterie of representatives getting elected repeatedly and calling the shots. Official sources said though the PMO had initiated the process of setting up of a high-level panel to suggest a revamp of medical education’s regulation, the decision of sending the proposal of setting up of NMC to the GoM was taken to convey to the medical fraternity that the government is keen to take the consensus path on it, and does not want to bulldoze the proposal.

However, there are apprehensions that certain “lobbies” within the medical sector could be at work to try and scuttle the proposed NMC.

Sources further say that whether the proposed elected representation will imply Parliamentarians or representatives from the doctors’ association, remains to be seen.

“The Nursing council of India too has elected representatives, i.e. a member of Parliament from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. We will have to wait and watch what the GoM means by inclusion of representatives in the commission,” sources added.

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Meanwhile the GoM which is headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and consists of cabinet ministers like Health Minister J P Nadda and Science & Technology Minister Harshwardhan, met on Wednesday. It has asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Niti Aayog to look at “International evidence” and make “appropriate” changes in the draft proposal.

Sources say that the changes recommended by the GoM look “doubtful” and will lead to an “unnecessary” delay.

“It seems that the changes have been suggested to put the draft in the loop from where it can never come out. The Parliamentary standing committee report quoted extensively about the core functions of General Medical Council of UK. What more International evidence is needed,” a source asked.

The proposed NMC 2016 calls for creating a new body to regulate medical education with right to government to give binding directions with different boards for handling different functions pertaining to under graduate (UG), Post graduation, regulations and ethics in the medical profession.

The Union Ministry of health worked with Niti Aayog on MCI’s restructuring- at the behest of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi which suggested a new commission as a policy-making body for medical education comprising of a chairperson, nine ex-officio members and 10 part-time members.