The rift among practitioners of different streams of medicine over the National Medical Council Bill, 2017, seems to have widened over the past one month. When the Indian Medical Association began to oppose the bill, particularly over the introduction of a bridge course for AYUSH doctors, it found support from certain sections of the AYUSH fraternity as well.
However, now, another section of homeopaths has come out strongly in favour of the bill, and the proposed bridge course. These doctors, who held a rally at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi earlier this week, argue that the proposed bridge course will help the government address shortages of doctors in rural areas as well as urban slums. Their stance is in line with the Centre's view that a bridge course would be used to train AYUSH doctors and allow them to administer "preventive and promotive allopathic care" at primary health care centres.
"The demand for a change in the system has been a longstanding one. And the need for an intermediate course to train AYUSH doctors has also been voiced time and again. Now, after several decades when the government has taken a stand, allopathic doctors are opposing the idea to retain their supremacy," said V.S. Gangan, president of Kalyan Homeopathic Doctors Association, Mumbai. Gangan said a bridge course would allow the government to use the six lakh strong workforce of AYUSH doctors across the country, and fill in for the MBBS practitioners who are averse to working in rural areas.
In 2016, the Maharashtra government started a similar one-year course for AYUSH doctors, he said. "This course is in modern pharmacology. Bachelors in homeopathic medicine have a syllabus similar to that of MBBS, but they are not trained in pharmacology. The MCI has been opposing the state government over this course, and the matter is now in the local court. They just want to retain their monopoly in modern medicine," he said.
Gangan said the rally held in Delhi was attended by "7000-8000" doctors. However, he conceded that there was a difference of opinion on the matter among practitioners of Ayurveda and homeopathy, too. "Some people who practice classical Ayurveda and homeopathy are opposing the bridge course because they fear that this might affect their trade. But their fears are baseless. Besides, AYUSH doctors have been working under the supervision of allopaths at several private and government hospitals for several years now," he said.
Gangan said the group had spoken with several members of parliament on the issue, and also submitted their views to the standing committee that is currently evaluating the NMC Bill, 2017.