To protest the passage of the National Medical Commission Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday, doctors and medical students will be observing a 24-hour strike, which started at 6 am Wednesday. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the country's apex body representing the medical fraternity with around three lakh members, announced the pan-India withdrawal of non-essential services yesterday, calling for demonstrations and hunger strikes at its local branches and urging medical students to boycott classes. However, Emergency, Trauma, ICU and related services will remain unaffected.
According to the body, the NMC Bill, which seeks to replace the controversial Indian Medical Council (IMC), is "draconian" as well as anti-people, anti-poor, anti-students and anti-democratic. On its website the IMA alleged that "Section 32 of the NMC Bill provides for licensing of 3.5 lakh unqualified non medical persons to practise modern medicine". According to it, the term 'Community Health Provider' has been vaguely defined to allow anyone connected with modern medicine to get registered in NMC and be licensed to practise modern medicine. "This means persons without medical background are becoming eligible to practise modern medicine and prescribe independently," said IMA, adding that the law "legalises quackery" and hence can never be accepted by the medical fraternity of the country.
The body further warned in a statement that it will intensify agitation if the government continues to be "indifferent to their concerns". After an aborted attempt during the previous Lok Sabha, the Modi government's fresh bid to introduce the NMC to regulate medical education and practices has met with stiff protest from the fraternity. On Tuesday, doctors associated with the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) and Resident Doctors' Association at AIIMS showed up to work wearing black badges as a mark of protest.
According to them, unless the government incorporates certain amendments in the interest of people, the bill will lead to deterioration of medical education and degradation of healthcare services. "We still hope that necessary amendments will be made in the bill before being passed in Rajya Sabha," AIIMS RDA president Amarinder Singh Malhi and president of Students' Union Mukul Kumar said in a joint statement.
The IMA, however, has made it clear that it rejects the NMC Bill 2019 "in toto", or as a whole. It alleges that other provisions in the bill, such as the decision to introduce a common final year MBBS examination and regulation of fees by the NMC for 50 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities, will increase the cost of medical education and affect the career of generations of medical students.
The IMA has solicited support of the public and reportedly appealed to people to not visit the hospitals except for emergencies during the strike, which will end at 6 am on Thursday.
With PTI inputs
(Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal)