Hundreds of medical students gathered outside the Kerala Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the state Governor, in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala medical students protest against pro-rich Medical Bill burn copies
news Protest Thursday, August 01, 2019 - 15:48

There was visible anger among the hundreds of medical students who had gathered outside the Kerala Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the state Governor, in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday morning. Wearing their lab coats, with their stethoscopes around their necks, holding banners which read “No to NMC” and chanting “We need justice,'' the students burnt placards with ‘NMC’ written on them as a show of protest against the new Medical Commissions Bill which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. 

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017, as an alternative to the Medical Council Act of 1956. The Medical Council of India (MCI), which had been in charge of medical education in the country, had long been under scrutiny for corruption charges following which there were demands to replace the MCI with an alternate body. 

However, several doctors and medical students across the country have taken to the streets against the Bill.

“It is not just an issue for the medical students or the medical fraternity of the country. It is an issue relating to the entire community. According to the NMC bill, any student from a non-medical field, after undergoing a few months of training or a ‘bridge course’, will be able to work in rural health centres. This is going to affect the poor who depend on rural health centres,” said Ajith Paul Densen, a medical student as well the student’s convenor of the Indian Medical Association (IMA). 

A day after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday, the Indian Medical Association had called for a nationwide protest and boycott of medical services as a protest against the Bill. Some of the medical students in Thiruvananthapuram led by the Medical Student’s Network (MSN) began a hunger strike outside the Raj Bhavan on Wednesday evening. As per the MSN officials, the protest is expected to go on till Thursday evening and if the Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha, then fresh protests will be organised from August 5 onwards. 

Speaking to TNM, Dr Binoy, chairman of MSN, referred to the bill as “pro-rich”, “anti-democratic” and “against the medical profession”. “The wealthy can afford to attain medical services from private hospitals which provide speciality treatment by well-qualified doctors whereas the poor in rural areas will be treated by a huge number of non-medical students, who are not qualified to act as doctors,” he said. 

The NMC Bill also seeks to implement exit exams after the undergraduate medical degrees in addition to the already existing final-year exams. The proposed exit exams, called the National Exist Test (NEXT), would also serve as the basis for which students would be eligible to apply for a postgraduate course. Furthermore, students who have completed medical studies outside India would be required to take the NEXT exam before they will be eligible to legally practice in India.

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