The National Medical Commission (NMC) has announced to hold back its decision to limit the number of MBBS seats to per 10 lakh population in every state. This announcement came after the three months of the declaration of this new regulation.
This amendment to suspend this decision came on Tuesday after the strong opposition from the states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the union territory of Puducherry to NMC’s new regulation that was released on August 16, 2023.
This decision would have limited all five southern states from increasing their medical seat capacity for the academic session 2024-25.
The new regulation, known as 'Guidelines for undergraduate courses under the establishment of new medical institutions, starting new medical courses, increase of seats for existing courses, and assessment and ratings Regulation 2023,' outlines that the approval for establishing new medical colleges and increasing MBBS seats in the upcoming academic session will be contingent on the seats-to-population ratio. This effectively limits the number of undergraduate medical seats in a state to 100 per 10 lakh population.
This rule is currently on hold and will be put into action starting the academic year 2025-26 after further discussions with stakeholders and reaching a consensus on the matter.
According to Indian Express, the decision to limit the total seats to 100 for every 10 lakh population, aimed to achieve a fair distribution of resources, particularly faculty members, nationwide. This restriction would have potentially added 40,000 additional MBBS seats, but only in states like Bihar and Jharkhand, which currently face a deficiency of over 70%, as per the new seats-to-population ratio norm. However, this approach sparked criticism from states that have already surpassed this ratio, rendering them ineligible for further expansion.
In a series of recent actions, the Commission has either suspended or reversed several decisions due to opposition from stakeholders. About two and a half months ago, the NMC postponed its new guidelines, which mandated doctors to prescribe only generic drugs. This move came in response to strong objections from major medical entities such as the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA).
A minimum of 13 states and union territories, encompassing all five southern states including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala currently have more than 100 seats per 10 lakh population. The recently proposed NMC norm would have directly impacted these regions.
Karnataka's Minister of Medical Education, Sharan Prakash Patil, expressed concern over the impact of the move on medical education in the state, emphasizing that the government has plans for additional institutions. He highlighted that stakeholders were not consulted on this decision. Karnataka presently has 11,020 MBBS seats, exceeding the recommended number of 6,769 according to the NMC's seats-to-population ratio.
In response to the potential repercussions of the new NMC norm, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin strongly criticized it, asserting that it constitutes a "direct encroachment" on state rights by the Centre. He argued that the norm disproportionately penalizes states like Tamil Nadu, which has made substantial investments in public health infrastructure. With 11,225 seats, Tamil Nadu currently boasts the highest number of undergraduate medical seats in the country, surpassing the stipulated cap by 46%. Ideally, as per the NMC's seats-to-population ratio, the state should have 7,686 seats.