Former chief of medical exam body was under-qualified, finds probe
The investigation, conducted by a retired IAS officer, also found that Bipin Batra took the post-graduate exam in 2002 and 2003 but failed to qualifyindia Updated: Nov 13, 2017 12:25 IST
A former de facto chief of India’s apex examinations body for medical studies was not qualified to hold the post and probably also indulged in corruption, an independent investigation has found.
For 13 years, Bipin Batra conducted post-graduate and higher medical studies exams without meeting two of the three mandatory criteria for the job: Be an MBBS from a reputed medical school, hold a post-graduate degree and have three years’ experience in teaching.
When Batra became the assistant controller of examinations in the National Board of Examinations (NBE) in 2004 he was only an MBBS, a probe approved by the government against him in September found. Batra was removed from his post in August.
The investigation, conducted by retired IAS officer Afzal Amanullah, also found that Batra took the post-graduate exam in 2002 and 2003 but failed to qualify. Yet, he managed to become the NBE’s assistant controller of exams the next year.
Thereafter, he took the test for the Diplomate of National Board — a post-graduate equivalent position —and passed with flying colours when he himself was on the board that conducted and evaluated the exam.
Hindustan Times has seen Amanullah’s report which was submitted last week to the NBE, an autonomous body under the Union health ministry.
Batra denies any wrong doing. He told HT: “I am yet to be given an opportunity by the committee to present my case. We must not jump the gun.”
“These are not charges but issues right now because there are certain rules and regulations to be followed and they are still debating upon them.”
Amanullah, however, refuted Batra’s claim. “I met him twice. First, he gave me an oral presentation and in the second meet he gave me a written reply.”
Amanullah’s report also mentions alleged cases of malpractice and financial irregularities at the NBE on Batra’s watch.
In 2010, Dr Batra became the executive director (in-charge) of the autonomous body. The top post required approval of the government’s appointments committee of the Cabinet but Batra didn’t have any, the probe found.
In the face of mounting allegations against Batra, a new NBE board, constituted under the NDA government in 2016, decided to suspend him and order an inquiry after they found his appointment as executive director did not have government approval. “Ever since we came in 2016 we were hearing several complaints (over) the functioning of the board. There were many important papers missing,” Abhijat Seth, president of the NBE, told HT. “We wrote to the union health ministry, and as per their advice, we suspended him and ordered a probe.”
Over the years, medical studies in India have been mired in controversy, and mushrooming of private colleges to meet growing demand has led to widespread corruption and a fall in the quality of medical education in the country. In May 2016, the Supreme Court even appointed a three-member panel to check alleged corruption in medical studies and suggest ways to improve standards.
Established in 1975, the NBE conducts postgraduate and postdoctoral examinations for private and government medical schools along with Medical Council of India. It also regulates entry of foreign medical graduates looking to practice in India.
Some 200,000 students take the tests by the NBE every year.
In September, the NBE board filed a complaint with Delhi Police over a deal worth Rs 117 crore that was awarded to M/s. Prometric Testing Pvt. Ltd without inviting any other bids. Delhi Police officials said their probe was underway. The probe also found that Batra’s foreign tours, allegedly costing Rs 42 lakh, were mostly without approval from the government.
He allegedly also paid legal fees to the tune of Rs 81.27 lakh from the NBE coffers to fight cases against him, including a private sexual harassment complaint that he was eventually exonerated from. Seth said they were treating the case with “all fairness, objectivity and transparency”, a view echoed by Rashmikant Dave, Batra’s successor.
“The board was constituted in 2016 but we ordered a probe in September, 2017 as we took time to ascertain the complaints,” Dave told HT.