In its attempt to further promote traditional systems of medicine, the Narendra Modi government has approved the draft National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCISM) Bill, 2018. The proposed law, approved by the Cabinet on Friday, will replace the existing regulator, the Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM), with a new body to ensure "transparency".
The bill comes in the wake of a rising demand to regulate the different traditional systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Naturopathy. The NCISM Bill, designed by the Niti Aayog, is modeled on the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2017—similar to the NMC, this bill, too, provides for the constitution of a National Commission with four autonomous boards to regulate the education of Ayurveda, under Board of Ayurveda and Unani, Siddha & Sowarigpa under the Board of Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa.
Like in the NMC Bill, here too, common boards have been proposed—one to assess, give rating and grant permission to educational institutions of Indian systems of medicine, and the second, to maintain a national register and resolve ethical issues relating to the practice of Indian medicine.
A common entrance and an exit exam have also been proposed; the exit exam will have to be cleared to get practicing licences. A teacher's eligibility test has also been proposed in the bill to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.
The status of practitioners of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) has been under a huge controversy ever since the government proposed introducing a "bridge course" for them, that would allow them to perform certain procedures of modern medicines.
The move was introduced ostensibly to address the shortage of doctors in rural and remote areas—a gap which is being filled, in many places, by AYUSH professionals.
However, fearing an encroachment into their profession, the Indian Medical Association opposed this move as they felt that it would "legitimise quackery".
Faced with bitter opposition from the very influential IMA, the government did a U-turn on the bridge course clause, as well as the clause for common exit exam for medical students.