The government will soon introduce a bill setting up a new medical education regulator, the Prime Minister declared on Friday, signalling the end of a protracted inter-ministerial tussle over including medicine under a single higher education regulator.
Manmohan Singh’s announcement suggests a setback for human resource development minister Kapil Sibal’s efforts to create a single, independent overarching higher education regulator covering all streams, including medicine, to facilitate inter-disciplinary education and research.
But successful back-channel political consultations have cleared the way for the Parliament standing committee on HRD to consider a key education reform bill that it stalled last week — bringing some relief to Sibal.
“After extensive consultations, the ministry of health has prepared a draft bill for setting up a National Council for Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) that will be introduced soon in Parliament,” Singh said at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences convocation.
The seemingly innocuous statement carries deep political significance. The HRD ministry has been suggesting that medical education be included under a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) it has been proposing, instead of creating a separate NCHRH.
The health ministry — led by Ghulam Nabi Azad — has been staunchly opposing the HRD ministry. Azad has even spoken to Singh on his concerns over giving up medical education.
The proposal for a single higher education regulator originated from the National Knowledge Commission and was reiterated by the Prime Minister-appointed panel headed by Professor Yash Pal.
Based on these reports, an HRD ministry task force had earlier this year insisted that medical education be included under the NCHER — triggering a turf war with the health ministry, which said it was unwilling to give up control of medical education.