President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday promulgated an ordinance disbanding the Medical Council of India—the Indian Medical Council (Amendment Ordinance, 2018)—with immediate effect and bringing in a board of governors in the interim to perform the functions of the council till such time a new council is reconstituted.
The seven-member board under the chairmanship of VK Paul, member, NITI Aayog will be assisted by former deputy director general, Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Sanjay Shrivastava. The other members of the board are: AIIMS director Randeep Guleria; PGIMER Chandigarh director Jagat Ram; NIMHANS Bangalore director BN Gangadhar; AIIMS Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism professor Nikhil Tandon; Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Director General of Health Services S Venkatesh and Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director General Indian Council of Medical Research, Balram Bhargava. Both Venkatesh and Bhargava will be ex-officio members.
The Centre took the ordinance route as it failed to get the National Medical Commission Bill passed in the Monsoon Session of Parliament despite it being listed. The government is of the view that despite several path-breaking efforts and initiatives, the country’s march to achieving the Universal Health Coverage and other targets of Sustainable Development Goals and National Health Policy is constrained on account of an inadequate number of qualified healthcare professionals due to the slow pace of commensurate reforms in medical education.
The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which was tabled in Parliament in December, sought to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) and also proposed allowing practitioners of alternative medicines, such as homeopathy and Ayurveda tpracticese allopathy after completing a “bridge course”. In January, the Bill was sent to the standing committee after several Opposition members demanded it in the Lok Sabha.
“All Opposition parties have urged that the National Medical Commission Bill should be sent to a standing committee. On behalf of the government, I will say we are ready to send it to a standing committee. But I have one request, there is a Supreme Court order, and the Standing Committee on Health also recommended that a Bill should be brought soon,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said in Parliament.
Abantika Ghosh wrote in The Indian Express: “The parliamentary standing committee for health and family welfare has already recommended that the two most controversial provisions of the Bill—a bridge course for Ayush practitioners to practice allopathic medicine and an exit exam for doctors—should be dropped from the National Medical Commission Bill. The committee recommended that instead of a separate licentiate examination for doctors, as proposed in the bill, the final MBBS examination should be the designated exit exam. Ramesh in his letter welcomed the dropping of the bridge course.”
Former Union minister and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh had recently written to Health Minister JP Nadda urging him to convene an all-party meeting to iron out the differences over the Bill.