Young doctors and medical students all over the country observed a Halla Bol dharna in their respective medical colleges and hospitals on April 2, 2018. The dharna had been organized to oppose the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which the central government proposes to introduce. The dharna was organized under the banner of the Medicos Youth Nation Action Council (MYNAC).
More than 500 resident doctors and under-graduate as well as post-graduate medical students gathered at the main gate of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on April 2, from 12 noon onwards. They were joined by senior doctors and teaching faculty of the hospital as well as office bearers of the Indian Medical Association. Doctors associated with other governmental and non-governmental health programs took part in the dharna. Doctors from Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Rajasthan and other states also participated in the protest action.
The huge banner behind the stage that had been set up at the hospital gate, highlighted the demands of the doctors with the following slogans: “No to NEXT!”, “No to unregulated fees!”, No to violence against doctors!” Representatives of the Resident Doctors’ Association of AIIMS, medical students and other doctors militantly raised slogans denouncing the NMC Bill as an anti-national, anti-people bill, aimed at promoting privatization of health care and medical education and further depriving the masses of our people of good health care services and our youth of medical education.
Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar, National President of the IMA, Dr. R.N.Tandon, General Secretary of IMA and other representatives of the IMA addressed the agitating doctors and medical students. Leaders of the Resident Doctors and representatives of the medical students also addressed the gathering.
Speakers clarified that the main agenda of the government in pushing through the NMC Bill is to completely convert health services and medical education into a profitable business for the big private corporates. They pointed out how, instead of setting up an extensive and good public health system in all parts of the country, the government is systematically wrecking the existing public health care system and promoting private hospitals. They highlighted the lack of government hospitals and the deplorable conditions of the dispensaries and public health centres in the rural areas and remote parts of the country. They spoke of the poor facilities and infrastructure as well as the huge numbers of patients that the doctors have to handle in the government hospitals. They spoke of the insecurity faced by the doctors, when the anger and frustration of the patients’ families against the deplorable health care system sometimes turn against the doctors and medical staff serving the patients against heavy odds.
Addressing the participants in the dharna, the agitating doctors denounced the increasing privatization of medical education and the exorbitant fees being charged by the private medical colleges. The government is trying to do away with all regulation of fees charged by the private medical colleges, they pointed out, highlighting the examples of certain states such as Uttarakhand, where the fees in private medical colleges have been raised almost 4 times, in just one year! “By forcing medical students to spend crores of rupees on their education, the government is pushing our youth, not to selflessly serve the people but rather, to try to squeeze out maximum profits from the miserable condition of the poor people”, said one of the representatives of the Resident Doctors.
Speakers opposed the requirement that the government is trying to impose, of passing another licentiate examination NEXT, in order to practice at the end of their MBBS degree. They opposed the formation of the new proposed NMC, which will be largely dominated by bureaucrats appointed by the government rather than elected doctor representatives, and which will work to push the agenda of privatization of medical education and health care, not of expanding and improving public health services.
Similar rallies were reported to have been held at government hospitals and medical colleges in many parts of the country.
Activists of the Communist Ghadar Party of India participated in the dharna at AIIMS in New Delhi and extended their support and solidarity to the struggle of the doctors and medical students. The call issued by the Communist Ghadar Party in support of their struggle was distributed in large numbers and was warmly received by the agitating doctors, students and the public.