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A Cure Worse than the Malady

National Medical Commission Act

The National Medical Commission Act, passed by Parliament in July 2019, has been billed by the government as the “biggest reform” in the medical profession and a “pro-poor legislation” that shall make quality medical care more accessible to the people. Paradoxically enough, the act ran into severe resistance from the very profession whose lot it was supposed to improve. An examination of some of the provisions of the act in light of these developments makes us think that the act may well be a case of the cure being worse than the malady itself. There is a need for the resistance against this act to be revived.


That the health of India’s healthcare system is in dire straits is a self-evident reality. It is also true that the Medical Council of India (MCI), the body in charge of regulating the medical profession hitherto, has faced corruption scandals. It is another thing that much of this corruption was facilitated with the collusion of the poli-tical establishment. The situation as such was crying for a major overhaul, and to put it in the words of union minister for health and family welfare, the “National Medical Commission Bill” (NMC Bill) is to be the “biggest reform” (PTI 2019a) in healthcare. It is another thing that much of the medical fraternity seems convinced of this being a dive to the bottom and is up in arms to oppose it.

The road to hell, they say, is paved with gold; likewise, there are plenty of flowery phrases, concerns, and platitudes to healthcare needs in the bill that have now been passed by both the houses of Parliament. It talks of developing “competency based dynamic curriculum at undergraduate level;” of “addressing the needs of primary health services, community medicine and family medicine;” of “quality and standards to be maintained in medical education;” of “regulating professional conduct and promoting medical ethics,” and the like. It would, however, be naïve to take these words at face value in as much as their true import is coloured by the overall context of the healthcare system in India that is among the most privatised, iniquitous, unjust, and for-profit, and which sends more than 60 million Indians below one of the stingiest poverty lines in the world.

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Updated On : 24th Jun, 2020


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