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AIIMS boss clashes with minister

JUST TWO weeks after it had weathered the anti-quota storm, AIIMS on Thursday was hurtled into another crisis with its director P. Venugopal taking on Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in a turf war.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 10:47 IST

Angered by sacking of staff

JUST TWO weeks after it had weathered the anti-quota storm, AIIMS on Thursday was hurtled into another crisis with its director P. Venugopal taking on Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss in a turf war.

It began early in the day when Venugopal returned to office after a two-week vacation to find three of his aides transferred, sacked or demoted by the Health Ministry in his absence. The director thought he had had enough and decided to call for a show of strength.

In an impromptu meeting with students and faculty, Venugopal threatened to resign. "We'll not tolerate the systematic undermining of the director's office.

This is destruction of our independence and I'll step down if needed to save the dignity of this institution," he said. He met the PM and appealed to him to restore the autonomy of the institute.

The ministry's action, many at AIIMS interpreted, could be in reply to the role the institute's doctors played during the anti-quota agitation. The campus was the hub of protests and its director is said to have taken a "sympathetic" stand during the agitation.

A day after Venugopal went on leave, senior financial advisor Mayank Sharma's three-year deputation was terminated -- 27 days before time. Public relations officer Arti Vij and sub-dean Neerja Batla were also removed from their posts.

Ramadoss said the director was free to resign and added that the ministry's decisions were not arbitrary. "There had been no administrative focus in AIIMS over the past two years and these changes were needed. These will be ratified by an AIIMS governing body meeting soon," he said.

"I think it is wrong on the director's part to go public with these issues. It has undermined the reputation of the institute," he said.

The issue, however, is unlikely to fizzle out. In the morning, the students gheraoed dean R.C. Deka's office, demanding that he step down as he had been "imposed" on them by the ministry.

The police entered the AIIMS premises -- for the first time since the anti-quota agitation -- to control the situation.