The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Medical Commission Bill, that will replace the 63-year-old Medical Council of India to reform the medical education sector.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Lok Sabha that the legislation would be one of the biggest reforms in the country’s history and would establish a structure to tackle challenges facing the medical education sector. The minister said the bill was pro poor, and would bring government seats and 50% private seats within the reach of meritorious students from economically weaker sections. Vardhan tried to assure the House that genuine concerns of the Indian Medical Association were addressed.
However, Congress leader Manish Tewari urged the government to withdraw the bill, saying the constitution of autonomous boards and the National Medical Commission presented a conflict of interest. He pointed out that certain clauses were designed to get retired bureaucrats to be part of the commission. His colleague Vincent Pala, the legislator from Shillong, criticised the draft law’s proposal to “replace elected members with nominated members” on the Medical Council Board, according to PTI. He also asked how the integrity of board members would be decided. “The new bill lacks vision and lacks structural integrity,” Pala added. “You are replacing elected members with nominated members.”
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader A Raja and Trinamool Congress MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar also came out against the bill. Raja termed it as “anti-poor, anti-social justice, undemocratic and anti-federalism”. Raja called the bill a joke and alleged that it would encourage corruption and nepotism. The former Union minister also criticised the proposal to include an “exit examination” for medical students, and claimed it would ruin the future of students.
Dastidar agreed with Raja’s point about the exit examination, and said the proposed law was against the principle of federalism and unacceptable as it would jeopardise the future of students.
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party member Mahesh Sharma backed Harsh Vardhan, and said the 1956 India Medical Council Act had failed to fulfil people’s aspiration. He alleged that the medical council had become a “den of corruption” and had been commercialised. “The bill will end the Inspector Raj,” PTI quoted him as saying.
DMK leader DNV Senthilkumar S and the BJP’s Dr Subhas Sarkar were also among the 32 members of the House who participated in the discussion. “Basic intention of the government through this Bill is to ensure utmost standards of medical education,” The Hindu quoted Harsh Vardhan as saying at the end of the debate. “Nobody should have any apprehensions about the intention. The NMC Bill is anti-vested interests. It will help us move away from inspection raj. It will select one-time and full-time regulators.”
The Rajya Sabha, meanwhile, passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019 for discussion. Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the economy was in a very bad state, and real estate projects had remained stuck for the last three years, The Hindu reported.
“The backbone of the economy is the MSME sector,” Firstpost quoted him as saying. “If you look at insolvency proceedings, only 94 petitions have been resolved so far, and 3,378 have commencement of liquidation. In other words, four out of five companies go into liquidation.” This had a major impact on employment, he added. “On one hand, you’re seeking to resolve this matter but on the other hand you’re creating huge unemployment issues.”
Sibal accused the Centre of “creating an oligopoly in the country”, and demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee.
The Rajya Sabha also passed the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Scheme Bill, 2019, after a discussion. The bill, which had been passed by the Lok Sabha on July 24, seeks to put in place a mechanism by which poor depositors will get back their money lost in Ponzi schemes. Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur said the government had constituted an inter-ministerial group to address gaps in the existing legislation. The bill was part of the government’s efforts to bring back money looted by influential people, the minister added.