Away from the turmoil at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the nation's leading doctors from Mumbai to the southern hubs of cutting-edge medicine have begun to speak up against the "political interference" that led India's top cardiac surgeon P Venugopal to court on Friday, to battle his undignified dismissal as the Institute's director.
"There's no question about it, it's a very big loss for AIIMS," says Dr Ramakant Panda, vicechairman and consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai. Panda trained under Venugopal at AIIMS and says the news of his sacking is "unbelievable."
"It's clearly due to political interference, and extremely sad," says Panda. “AIIMS is one of the best medical institutes in India and the least political interference from the government is best for it. Venugopal's one of the most committed and straightforward doctors. I have the highest regards for his ethics."
The war between Venugopal and the Anbumani Ramadossled Health Ministry is being closely followed in medical institutes in the South, and doctors say their main worry is that the autonomy of AIIMS should not be diluted.
“The government should stop meddling around with premier institutes, whether the IITs, IIMs or AIIMS,'' says Dr Ajit Mullasari, cardiologist and member of the medical board of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Chennai.
“Clearly, the autonomy of AIIMS has to be preserved,” says Mullasari. “Governmental or nongovernmental interference will lead to the collapse of the institution. If AIIMS has to remain a seat of learning and institute of highest repute it needs professionalisation and non-interference. The government can give only direction or policy, nothing more.''
At the Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu's premier center for medicine and cutting-edge research, they term the exit "a very unfortunate turn of events," says Dr Samuel Chittaranjan, associate director, CMC. “Dr Venugopal is held in very high esteem in the medical fraternity."