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AIIMS sacks its director

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 01:24 IST
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Venugopal charged with government bashing; docs, students & faculty members strike work

THE DIRECTOR of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr P. Venugopal, was dismissed on Wednesday after an 'institute body meet', chaired by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, "recommended" his sacking. Protesting the decision, students and faculty members of AIIMS went on a 'scalpel-down' strike immediately.

After a three-hour long meeting at Nirman Bhawan, Ramadoss and 16 other government nominees passed the proposal to remove Venugopal on grounds of violation of the code of conduct.

The governing body has sought an explanation from Venugopal for going public with the institute's problems, which should have been solved in a private forum.
The resolution proposing Venugopal's sacking noted that he was already 64 years old, well past the retirement age, and found him guilty under Rule 9 (criticism of the government) of conduct rules.

It said Venugopal gathered faculty, students and outsiders in the AIIMS auditorium and openly criticised the government. "It led to considerable tension in AIIMS and therefore it is proposed to terminate the term of Dr Venugopal as director in public interest," read the resolution.

The director's final termination orders will come after the cabinet's appointments committee clears the recommendation. This can take up to three months. The feud between Ramadoss and Venugopal goes back to the anti-quota protests that paralysed work at AIIMS for about three weeks May-June. The minister accused Venugopal of instigating the protesters. He had said that "a handful of doctors are converting the institute into a political hub". Venugopal had claimed that Ramadoss was interfering in the functioning of AIIMS.

On Wednesday, though five items were listed on the agenda before the meeting started, Ramadoss suddenly brought in a supplementary resolution calling for Venugopal's removal, minutes before the meeting was to end.

According to BJP MP V.K. Malhotra, who attended the meeting, Ramadoss said Venugopal could be given three months salary and told to leave. "I'll be the last person to trample on autonomy. But at the same time, I'll not shy away from my responsibilities. I'm answerable to Parliament," said Ramadoss.

Terming the decision unfortunate, Malhotra said it was a black day in the history of AIIMS. "This was not a unanimous decision, as three of the members didn't agree with the resolution," said Malhotra, adding that the government was interfering in the institute's autonomy.