The medical fraternity may stand united in support of Dr P. Venugopal but it fears that his unceremonious exit might set a precedent and the Directors' office will be reduced to being the Health Ministry's mouthpiece.
The way Dr Venugopal's coterie was dismantled and he was dismissed brought together an extremely fragmented AIIMS family. Resident doctors' who, until the anti-quota stir, were against Dr Venugopal are now standing by his side, calling him a 'father figure'. Similarly, faculty members who accused Dr Venugopal of being autocratic and responsible for mass exodus of senior faculty members are today sitting on an indefinite hunger strike, protesting against him removal.
The pro-reservation camp, which had been demanding Dr Venugopal's removal for abetting the anti-quota stir, are also displeased with the reasons cited by the Ministry. "They are putting a gag on anyone with a different opinion. The Ministry should have taken a clear position that Dr Venugopal was removed for supporting the agitation. Directors coming in after this will never be sure who the boss is, if the Ministry keep bullying them," said Dr Vikas Bajpai Convener of Medicos Forum of Equal Opportunities.
Students and faculty members fear that the institute's fate will be sealed if they lose this battle. "The governing body constitutes mainly of all the Minister's men.
Similarly, all key positions have been given to Minister's aides and all panels are heavily in favour of the Health Minister. The issue of autonomy is bigger than our petty differences. The next Director will obviously be try to please the Minister after seeing how Dr Venugopal was treated," said a senior faculty member.
According to insiders, Dr Venugopal was disappointed and shocked with the treatment meted out to him. "He was shocked by the way all this was done. After all, he had treated Dr Ramadoss for nearly two months. Dr Venugopal did not tell us to carry on the strike but he did say that if the Director is treated like this, then it is the institute's fate to be the ministry's mouthpiece," added a senior doctor.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted a committee to look into the functioning of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) but the Health Minister, it seems, was in a hurry to dismiss Dr Venugopal. The Director's supporters are demanding an explanation as to why the governing body superseded the PM's instructions.