The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has described as “unfortunate” the endorsement of the Union Government's decision to start a Bachelor of Rural Health course at the meeting of State Health Ministers in Hyderabad on January 12-13.

Calling it a retrograde step, the IMA members said they will strongly oppose the move to produce half-baked doctors for the rural population.

Association national president Vinay Aggarwal said: “This group of doctors, according to the Centre, is being created mainly for the rural section. When the urban population is being offered the best of healthcare, why is the rural population being asked to work with sub-standard healthcare service providers? The IMA cannot support this discrimination.”

“It is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which gives each citizen the Fundamental Right to equality. This new course violates the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, as per the Section 15 (2) (b) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.  The minimum qualification to register for a medical practitioner under the Indian Medical Registry is an MBBS degree. The Medical Council Act categorically prohibits any person or body, including the State government, from starting sub-standard new courses for medical education/ training to produce doctors,” noted an IMA release.

Association secretary general D.R. Rai said: “There are better options available with the Union and State governments for providing medical care to our rural people, like opening more medical colleges in rural areas, one year compulsory rural service for medical graduates with the government giving incentives like preference in post-graduate selection and special rural salary structure.”

The IMA says it will now appeal to President Pratibha Patil to look into the matter. “We will also organise a dharna and observe an all-India protest day in all the State and local branches of the IMA on January 22. We will also submit a memorandum, highlighting our reservation to the introduction of the new course and other challenging issues related to medical profession to all the relevant government departments all over the country,” noted the release.