The Dean of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is contemplating leaving the institution, saying he has been subjected to humiliation by "some colleagues and 'misguided' students."
"The day I became the dean of AIIMS, I was offered the post of vice-chancellor of KG Medical University in Lucknow. I declined the offer then but might reconsider in view of the prevalent situation (in AIIMS)," said RC Deka, a leading ENT surgeon in the country and an expert in cochlear implant surgery.
On June 15, some doctors and students surrounded his house and shouted slogans demanding his resignation allegedly after a provocative speech by AIIMS director P Venugopal.
"After being in the profession for nearly 31 years and serving for 25 years at AIIMS, it becomes difficult to face humiliation from colleagues and 'misguided' students. They surrounded my quarters, shouted slogans against me and even demanded my resignation," Deka said.
Deka, who has been heading the ENT department for the past 11 years, said he was so disturbed by the developments that he cancelled his trip to Russia this week.
He had been invited as a guest speaker to the annual session of the International Academy of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) at St Petersburg.
It seems the AIIMS has not learnt from the exodus of top doctors. Since 2003, 24 senior doctors have left, either for monetary reasons or because of infighting in the institution.
In March, three of AIIMS' top doctors -- VS Mehta (head of neurosurgery), Anoop Misra (professor of medicine) and SN Mehta (head of surgery) -- left to join private hospitals.
According to Health Ministry sources, the institute is currently running short of faculty members and its present staff strength is much less than the sanctioned strength.
"The AIIMS is running with just 479 faculty members as against its sanctioned strength of 543," a source said.
Expressing his helplessness, Deka said, "Why are they against me? Contrary to popular perception, I do not have any financial powers nor do I get something extra."
The government documents declaring his appointment as dean reads, "Dr RC Deka will be entitled to a special pay of Rs 500 (Rupees five hundred only) per month for the duration he acts as Dean (Academics), AIIMS."
According to sources at the AIIMS, Venugopal, KK Talwar and Deka were short listed for the post of director in 2003.
Venugopal was selected for the post for five years, sidelining his retirement age, apparently, according to some, due to his proximity with the then central government.
"Since then Venugopal and Deka have not been very good friends," said a senior faculty member, adding the former broke the AIIMS protocol in place since 1962 by appointing an acting director other than the Dean. "It's an insult to the Dean."
Venugopal, while proceeding on leave last week, appointed forensic science department head TD Dogra as acting director even as Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss chose Deka for the job.
Ramadoss and Venugopal are at loggerheads over the issue of autonomy of the institute. The Delhi High Court has sought their versions of the dispute.
While the director had accused the ministry of eroding the autonomy of the AIIMS, the minister has hit back, saying his critics have turned the country's leading medical institute into a 'political hub.'
Dismissing charges of violation of AIIMS autonomy, Deka said since the government was allocating over Rs 4 billion to the institute every year, it has every right to know about the heads of expenditure.
"They (government) are not interfering with either academic activities or research works. As per rules they have the right to know about administrative matters of the institute," Deka said.