Published: 05th August 2019
Why medical college students across Tamil Nadu are protesting against the NMC Bill
Excepting for a couple of newly established medical colleges, almost 18 colleges from across the state are organising a unified protest against the Centre's NMC Bill.
Medical Colleges across Tamil Nadu are on strike to protest against the National Medical Commission Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The students are boycotting their classes and are raising various issues that they have with the NMC bill, from the proposal of the NEXT exam to the government's proposal to give 'mid-level medical practitioners' medical license.
Excepting for a couple of newly established medical colleges, almost 18 colleges from across the state are organising a unified protest against the Centre's NMC Bill. Some major colleges have been protesting from Friday, some colleges have also been boycotting classes since Friday but it's only today that the colleges coordinated with each other and launched a united protest. Hari Ganesh from Trichy Medical College who is in his final year has been also helping with the coordination of the protest. If the Bill does gets signed on by the President of India, Hari will be forced to prepare for the NEXT exam in a couple of months, "Already there is the stress of being in the final year and now this is added stress. How can they combine a qualifying exam and a competitive exam, just like UPSC, this was also just another exam and now we will be forced to undertake more stress," he said.
Without much clarity yet on whether the paper will be MCQ style, the students say this could be a grave decision, "Students will only start preparing for MCQ style questions from the first year itself and MCQ is not the way to test a medical student's talent. Also, students from government hospitals have to tend to a lot of patients and will not have time to prepare as well for the exam, students in private hospitals get fewer patients and will be able to prepare better," Ganesh added.
Jeevitha from Madras Medical College who hails from a remote village in Krishnagiri says that the year she got into college, there was no NEET. So unlike the way the students are struggling with NEET coaching, Jeevitha faced no such problem, now she fears she will, "Now we will also have to start paying exorbitant amounts of money to get coaching and I come from a family where I simply cannot afford any such expenses," she said. She also said that the NEXT focused more on theory than practical knowledge. "People in villages cannot even dream of their post-graduation anymore. Even with the MCI, we are being told that the members will be nominated and elected by them, we don't even get a say there," she added.
Bilal from Madurai Medical College is in his fourth year and he says that almost all the students on campus excepting the first-year students have been boycotting classes since Friday. "I worked so hard to get this seat and now it's infuriating to see that a bill like this has been passed.
Another student also pointed out that while NEXT deserves all our attention, there are several other proposals that the NMC makes that will negatively impact the students. "I'm sure at least a few students from Government colleges will fail because of this bill. It is frustrating to be caught here in a time like this," he says.
The students are also angered by the suggestion that 'mid-level community health practitioners' practising modern medicine will also be doctors. "When someone goes to the pharmacy and askes the pharmacist to give them something for a fever, does the pharmacist become a doctor? When they say 'people who practice modern medicine', what do they mean? They say people who treat minor common ailments so that's fever, diarrhea? So what if an HIV person goes for treatment, would they say they have unexplained diarrhea?" he questioned.
Dr Ravindranath, General Secretary, Doctors' Association for Social Equality said that he hopes the student protest will force the government to revoke the bill, "We stand in complete solidarity with the students and will give them all the support they need. Hopefully, the President will refuse to sign the bill." The students said for now, they will continue the protests.