The Health Ministry said today that almost 75% of total medical seats in the country would be available at reasonable fees once the new National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill assented into law. The government said nearly 50% of the total MBBS seats in the country are in government colleges, which have nominal fees and of the remaining seats, 50% would be regulated by the NMC, which will replace the corruption-plagued Medical Council of India (MCI).
“In the spirit of federalism, the State governments would still have the liberty to decide fees for remaining seats in private medical colleges on the basis of individual MOUs signed with colleges on the basis of mutual agreement,” the ministry said in a statement released to allay fears regarding the NMC Bill.
The Bill that seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 was passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on August 1, amid a walkout by AIADMK.
IMC Act, 1956 has no provision for regulation of fees and as a result, currently, some states regulate the fees of some seats in private colleges through MoUs signed with college managements. In addition, the Supreme Court has set up committees chaired by retired High Court Judges to fix fees in private colleges as an interim measure. Deemed to be Universities claim that they are not covered by these committees.
While initiating a debate in the Rajya Sabha, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh demanded the government to amend a clause to ensure the NMC regulates fee for up to 75 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities instead of 50 per cent seats proposed in the Bill.
“This provision will open floodgates to privatisation in medical education. I believe in privatisation. But I do not believe in privatisation in medical education,” he said, and urged members irrespective of political party affiliation to support his amendments.
“There are 76,000 MBBS seats in the country, out of which 40,000 in government colleges and 36,000 in private sector. Out of 36,000 seats, 30,000 seats are in private colleges and the rest 6,000 seats in deemed universities”, he added.
However, the Health Minister has termed the legislation as “pro-poor” saying it would bring not only government seats but also 50 per cent of all private seats within the reach of meritorious students belonging to economically weaker sections.
“States also have been providing scholarships on the basis of merit cum means and would normally continue to do so in order to make medical education affordable to all students,” the ministry said in the statement released today.
“We need to balance the interests of the poor but meritorious students and the promoters of the private medical colleges in order to expand the number of seats on offer. It is not correct to assume that colleges would be free to arbitrarily raise the fees for unregulated seats. The transparency provided by NEXT results would lead to regulation of fees through market forces. Colleges would have to provide quality of education commensurate to the fees charged by them, otherwise there would be no takers for their management quota seats,” the statement added.
According to the ministry, rating would be provided by Medical Assessment and Rating Board or MARB for medical institutions based on the standard of education and training.
“This will serve to regulate fee through market forces,” it said.
The government has said it has invested more than Rs. 10,000 crores in creating government seats in the past five years , and are also setting up 21 new AIIMS at a cost of over Rs. 30,000 crores to boost the medical education sector. It also said the trend of creating government seats will continue in future.
“Another bogey which is being raised is that merit will be given a go by in the proposed dispensation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The earlier provision was that any student who obtains 50% marks at class 12 level could gain admission to MBBS courses. Colleges negotiated with students and conducted their own admission tests in a totally non-transparent manner. As a result, many undeserving students got admission. Now only NEET qualified students can get admission, which ensures that merit prevails in admissions,” the ministry said