The youngest Member of Parliament from Maharashtra, Dr Heena Gavit, might have cleared her Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital amidst state elections in 2014. But she hasn’t served her mandatory bond service in a rural medical centre, and neither has she payed the Rs50 lakh penalty for skipping it.
This was revealed in response to a Right to Information (RTI) query by authorities from Dr Gavit’s alma mater JJ Hospital, which stated they handed over her original documents despite the fact that she did not adher to the norms of medical education after completing her postgraduation.
According to rules, every medical, dental graduate, post graduate and super specialty student has to serve at an assigned health care centre governed by the state for one year after finishing the final exam. Students who dishonour the bond service have to pay Rs15 lakh, Rs50 lakh and Rs2.5 crore respectively. A government resolution to this effect was passed in May 2010.
Ironically, it was Dr Gavit’s father, Dr Vijaykumar, who had introduced the mandatory bond service during his tenure as state health minister with an aim to improve the health sector in rural areas . The Bombay high court in 2013 also directed the state medical education department to ensure that all doctors serve in rural hospitals for one year after clearing their exams .
Dr Swapnil Meshram, president, Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, said students who violate the bond service cannot avail their original documents or degree certificate until they pay the default amount.
“All of us sign on affidavits to complete the bond. The Directorate of Medical Education and Research has the right to pull us up in court if we default on the compensation. Only postgraduate students intending to pursue a super specialty course are are allowed to postpone the bond service, which can be completed after clearing the exams,” said Meshram.
The notification assigning government bonded services for postgraduation candidates, which was passed in 2014, states that Gavit, who secured 477 marks, didn’t apply for the online process.
A state health official, on the condition of anonymity, said Gavit is one of the 354 students across MBBS and MD courses to opt out of the bond service during the academic year 2011-2015. “Of 645 students, almost 50% opted out of the bond during these four years, despite clear notifications the hospital has collected only Rs 71lakh from the defaulters,” said the official.
Gavit did not comment on her inability to complete the bond or pay the amount. “I am attending an event right now, so wouldn’t be able comment on the issue. I will get back to you,” Gavit told HT. She didn’t respond to calls or text messages.
Chetan Kothari, the RTI activist who filed the query, said rules are always bent when it comes to high-profile politicians. “JJ Hospital and Grant Medical College are among the best in the country. At the same time, the state government, which spends Rs5 lakh of taxpayers’ money on every medical student, has the right to ask them to serve in rural areas. Why should the rules be different for politicians,” Kothari said.
Medha Gadgil, additional chief secretary with the medical education and drugs department, said she was unaware about the case, but the bond services norm is rigorously followed in all medical colleges for graduate and postgraduate students. “This is a specific case and I’ll have to check with the officials concerned to get an update,” said Gadgil.
Dr Tatyarao Lahane, dean, Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital, said there is a government resolution that allows MP, MLA and MLC’s to evade bond services. “Elected representatives of state of municipal elections are exempted from the bond services process. The arrangement is made public through a GR,” said Lahane.
However, when HT checked, no such GR was found in the directory of the government of Maharashtra’s official website. Girish Mahajan, minister for medical education, was unavailable for a comment as his phone remained switched off at the time of going to press.
Dr Heena Gavit, Bharatiya Janata Party MP, from Maharashtra
Gavit, 28, is the daughter of former health minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit
At 26, she became the youngest MP of Maharashtra from the Nandurbar constituency