December 19, 2009

West Bengal passes controversial 3 year Rural Diploma MBBS Health bill

The West Bengal government on Wednesday passed the controversial Rural Health Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 in the state assembly by majority vote.

In doing so, the state government created a precedence in the sense that it over-ruled thereby the collective decision that was taken by the Left Front to send the bill to the assembly select committee in view of the differences that existed over various tenets of the bill among the Opposition.

The government’s move resulted in an immediate walkout by the Trinamool Congress and Congress.

The Bill introduces a 3-year diploma course on medical science and the apparent objective is to deploy these diploma holders in various parts of rural Bengal to meet the acute shortage there in terms of qualified medical practitioners.

The government’s move, good or bad, will undoubtedly lead to tremendous opposition from the leading Opposition parties as well as Left Front allies at this juncture when the state is going through one election after another and practically losing them all.

In early 1980s, the then CPIM state secretary Promode Dasgupta had mooted the idea of creating "barefoot doctors" to deploy them in rural Bengal, but had to relent to the huge opposition from the medical fraternity, including the Indian Medical Association (IMA). At the same time, it is not unknown either that during the raj days, a category of medical practitioners was created who were known as Licentiate Medical Practitioners. Sometimes jokingly referred to as "half-doctors", these practitioners did not go through the rigours of the Bachelor of Medicine (MB) course, but could practice privately under certain conditions. The system was abolished in 1946.

"I don’t understand why Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is trying to follow the Promode Dasgupta formula which was rejected by the medical fraternity as well," said Partha Chatterjee, the opposition leader in the state Assembly. Congress leader Manas Bhunia, who is himself an MBBS doctor resented the fact that two categories of medical practioners were being created, the fully-qualified for the cities and the half-qualified for rural Bengal.

"The sole intention of the government behind framing the bill is to tide over the manpower crisis in the rural health care system. MBBS doctors often refuse to go to the villages and stay there. We want to send these diploma-holder to villages to treat people there," state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra argued. Mishra told newsmen he was unaware of the Front’s earlier decision, although he is a central committee member of the CPIM.

Left partners were aghast. Ashok Ghosh of the Forward Bloc, CPI’s Manju Majumdar and RSP’s Manoj Bhattacharjee all said they couldn’t figure out how this faux pas had happened. All of them were hugely surprised at the passing of the bill and said they would talk to the Left Front chairman Biman Bose. The CPIM’s state secretariat will take up the issue at a meeting on Thursday.

Link: Original Article

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