In a sudden twist, the government announced the dissolution of the Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex regulator of medical education.
Sources in the Union Health Ministry said that after the SupremeCourt-appointed oversight committee to supervise the functioning of the MCI abruptly resigned in September, the Government had no choice but to dissolve the 100-member Council in its present form.
Repeated complaints and written submissions were being sent by the oversight committee to the Health Ministry saying that the members were non cooperative and non-compliant. The committee headed by NITI Aayog-member VK Paul wrote in July to the Ministry alleging that the orders of the SC were being misinterpreted by the MCI officials. The Ministry should either take action or apprise the Apex Court.
Later, Paul again wrote to the Ministry seeking a commission of enquiry against the MCI. Subsequently, the five-member committee including Paul and Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS at Delhi; Nikhil Tandon, Professor and Head of Endocrinology, AIIMS; Jagat Ram, Director of PGIMER at Chandigarh and BN Gangadharan, Director of NIMHANS at Bengaluru, resigned.
A senior official from MoHFW told BusinessLine, “After receiving their resignation letters, the Health Ministry was in a fix. What should it do now? If the entire committee resigns in protest, the Ministry would have to go to the Supreme Court to decide on further course of action. This would lead to more criticism by the SC. Hence, a decision was taken to dissolve the MCI, and appoint the five members of the oversight committee as the new Board of Governors,” .
Narendra Gupta, national co-convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said: “All in the current Board of Governors are in service of the government and completely at its beck and call. The dismissed body was the mirror image of the government which dismissed it.”
The Government has been dragging its feet since 2010 to institute reforms. According to a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in this regard, in the last eight years it has been constituting one board of governors to supersede the previous time and again.
It has not passed the National Medical Commission Bill which would have replaced the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956. Earlier, the National Commission for Human Resources for Health Bill, 2011, was retracted due to opposition.
According to the MoHFW official, “The inspections for medical college approval were non-transparent. The assignment of inspectors was biased. BoG may now institute some transparency in proceedings, also videography of inspections is an option that may be included,” .
Under the circumstance, activists feel the pace of work for revamping medical education will be slow. Gupta said, “A huge task awaits the government of India in this regard.”