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Venugopal proceeds on leave; Apprises PM about AIIMS situation

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, June 16 (UNI) A day after apprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the situation at AIIMS and threatening to resign, institute Director P Venugopal proceeded on leave from today.

Sources told UNI that Dr Venugopal, who is on ''routine summer vacation'' till June 23, conveyed his ''displeasure'' to the Prime Minister over the ''systematic dilution of the institutes autonomy'' by Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.

He called on Dr Singh yesterday for almost an hour anmd explained his stand on the issue.

The AIIMS Director yesterday threatening to resign due to alleged ''interference'' in day-to-day working of AIIMS and ''undermining'' of his authority by the Health Minister.

''Dr Venugopal told Dr Singh that the Health Minister was interfering in the working of the institute and not allowing him to perform his duties,'' the sources said.

''The AIIMS Director said it was difficult for him to work if such conditions continued to prevail,'' they added.

''He also told the Prime Minister that the mass exodus of senior faculty members from AIIMS in the last two years was due to the interference of the Health Minister,'' they said.

Yetsreday, Dr Venugopal accused Dr Ramadoss of interfearing in the functioning of AIIMS and undermining his authority in the last two years.

The Director also threatened to step down from his post.

Dr Ramadoss had denied the charges and accused the AIIMS administration of not performing its duties well for the past two years.

''Everybody knows that the AIIMS administration is not doing its job well for the past two years,'' Dr Ramadoss had said.

About Dr Venugopal's threat, the Health Minister said he is welcome to resign.

''If a person wants to resign he is free to do so. He should go ahead and not wait for others to stop him,'' he added.

The Director said he was ''disturbed'' by the lack of respect towards AIIMS faculty and students and it is his duty to protect and secure their legitimate rights.

''As the Director of this institution it is my duty to seek justice for AIIMS faculty and students... And I assure you that I will not fail in maintaining the autonomy of this world class institution,'' he added.

''I stand before you to seek your decision on maintaining the sanctity of this temple of learning.... I am ready to step down and let anyone of you to take over,'' Dr Venugopal, who took over as AIIMS Director in 2003, said.

Doctors and students of the hospital had launched a signature campaign against the ''dilution'' of its autonomy by the Union Health Ministry.

They demanded that Dr Ramadoss be removed as AIIMS President and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) take direct control of the institute.

They alleged that the recent move of the Ministry to remove several senior functionaries, interference in day-to-day functioning of AIIMS and bypassing Dr Venugopal was a fallout of the anti-quota agitation.

Dr Ramadoss' order not to pay salaries to resident doctors, who were on strike for almost 18 days in May, is motivated by the same reason, they added.

They also demanded that AIIMS Dean Dr R C Deka, directly appointed by the Health Minister, be removed and Sub Dean Dr Neerja Bhatla, who was replaced by Dr Sunil Chumber, and spokesperson Dr Aarti Vij, who was replaced by Dr Shakti Gupta, be reinstated. The doctors and students feared that the axe would next fall on Dr Venugopal, who allowed the medicos to run the agitation from AIIMS premises.

A senior AIIMS Faculty Association member said the Health Minister's order on salary was in violation of the Supreme Court order, which said once the strike was called off, punitive action will not be taken against the doctors.

''With this campaign we are expressing support to Dr Venugopal.

We want him to continue as AIIMS Director. The interference in the day-to-day functioning of the institute will not be tolerated,'' he said.

''This is a politically motivated action.... But we will not let that happen. This institute will not be reduced into a nothing by a handful of politicians,'' he added.

AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association President Binod Patra said the threat to the institute's autonomy is looming large and they will fight it.

''The students and resident doctors are with Dr Venugopal and will fight to maintain the sanctity of AIIMS,'' he added.

The Health Minister is AIIMS President and has the power to issue any order pertaining to the institute, including appointment of the Director and the Dean.


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