Autonomy for Nimhans is just a Lok Sabha nod away

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences or Nimhans, one of India’s foremost centres for neurosurgery and research, is awaiting the much-coveted academic autonomy through an Act of Parliament.

Earlier this week, the Rajya Sabha passed the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences, Bangalore Bill, 2010, and it is now pending before the Lok Sabha.

Dr P Satish Chandra, director, Nimhans, told Deccan Herald the new Bill would make a big difference to the institute by giving it “academic autonomy”, besides formally recognising it as an institute of “national importance”.

The passage of the Bill will free Nimhans from the oversight of the Medical Council of India, the Nursing Council of India, and the Rehabilitation Council of India, thereby lending it flexibility in its programmes and research.

Chandra was hopeful that the Bill would be passed in the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament. He said that this would translate into not having to wait for permission to start new courses or affiliations with institutes in the country or abroad.

“The institute will work independently, both academically and in the field of research, and would not require any consent to begin any new courses or have any collaboration or tie-up with other national or international institutions.”

All cases of medical negligence could be dealt with internally, he said.

“Any complaints of medical negligence from any of the staff member of Nimhans will henceforth be dealt with by the members of the ‘institute body’.” Chandra said the Bill would help increase the intake of postgraduate students, which would help fix the huge gap in the doctor-patient ratio at Nimhans.

He said the existing doctors were overburdened with patients. With the Bill, the institute body can increase the number of postgraduate seats. Currently, there are 22 postgraduate students for psychiatry, 21 psychology, 21 students of psychiatric social work, and only 10 students from neurology.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament on December 7, 2010. It faced a slight hitch when the State government wanted to have a government representative as the vice-president of the institute, which was later agreed to.

The institute, with a budget of Rs 242 crore, makes an internal revenue of Rs 25 crore annually. It receives Rs 109 crore as planned grants and Rs 80 crore as non-planned grants from the Centre.

The State government grants Rs 2 crore for planned and Rs 26 crore for non-planned expenditures. Nimhans has proposed to increase its annual grant to Rs 230 crore in the 12th Five Year Plan, the director said.

Nimhans was born when the erstwhile government of Mysore declared the then Lunatic Asylum as Mental Hospital in 1925. It was later registered as an autonomous body in 1974.

If the Bill becomes law, Nimhans will join the select club of centres of excellence such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi; the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh; and the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Puducherry, which have been declared centres of national importance.

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