January 11, 2010

Health Minister asks NRIs to invest in pharma sector, set up medical colleges

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today invited persons of Indian origin (PIO) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) to become partners in India's health sector and highlighted the potential of investment in areas such as drug manufacturing and medical education.

Addressing the 8th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), an annual convention of PIOs and non-resident Indians (NRIs), Mr Azad said India was poised to become the pharmacy of the world.

He said drugs worth $ 80 billion were on the verge of going off-patent and, with India's capacity to manufacture drugs at competitive prices, there was a big opportunity for investment in this sector.

He said the Government had already streamlined and strengthened the regulatory framework for the sector. "I take this opportunity to invite the NRI entrepreneurs to come forward and invest in the drug manufacturing sector which has bright prospects," he said.

The Minister also detailed the steps taken by his Ministry to promote medical education in the country to deal with the shortage of medical human resources.

He told the convention that, besides recognition of foreign degrees, many changes had been effected to facilitate opening of new medical colelges and increase the capacity of existing colleges.

He said the requirement of land for setting up a medical college had been reduced from 25 to 20 acres across the country. In the North-East, this land could be in two parcels of 10 acres each.

In the cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore and Kanpur, medical colleges can be located in multi-storeyed buildings with floor area as per Medical Council of India (MCI) norms and in such cases the land requirement has been further reduced to 10 acres.

Mr Azad said faculty and staff requirements had also been rationalised. The teaching experience required for the post of Professor and Associate Professor has been reduced by one year each in the respective feeder cadres to speed up the promotion of the teachers to overcome the difficulties being faced by medical colleges. The requirement of bed strength and bed occupancy required at the stage of inception has been rationalized for the North Eastern States and Hill States.

The Minister said that, apart from the religious and charitable trusts, now companies registered under the Companies Act had also been made eligible to open medical colleges, which has increased the feasibility of opening new colleges. He said there was a need for new medical colleges, particularly in the under-served and unserved states.

"With these amended provisions, I appeal to the NRIs to come forward and invest in setting up the medical colleges or take up teaching or practice or contribute in any other way you wish towards furthering the cause of the nation," he added.

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