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Flash strike in AIIMS; Emergency, services paralysed

By Super
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New Delhi, July 5: Within minutes of AIIMS Director P Venugopal's dismissal, all services, including the emergency, in the premier institute came to a grinding halt as doctors and medical students went on a flash strike in protest against the decision.

''This decision is proof of the autocratic style of functioning of the Health Ministry over the autonomy of AIIMS... We oppose it and are on strike now,'' AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association President Binod Patra told UNI.

He said the strike will continue till Dr Venugopal is reinstated.

Dr Venugopal was dismissed by the institute's Governing Body, headed by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, for violating the code of conduct of the premier institute.

The striking doctors and students said they will fight against the autocratic move and will not accept any other person in Dr Venugopal's place.

''We will not let any other person function in place of Dr Venugopal... this decision is not acceptable to us,'' he added.

Urging the Prime Minister to intervene, Dr Patra said the striking doctors and students have full faith in Dr Manmohan Singh to resolve the issue.

The Health Minister and the AIIMS Director were on a war path for some time. The Health Minister had accused the AIIMS administration of ''not performing its duties'' during the past two years. As the President of the Institute, Dr Ramadoss had made some direct appointments and transfers of senior functionaries, including the Dean, in the institute, bypassing the Director.

Dr Venugopal was criticised for allowing the almost 16-day anti-quota reservation in May to be run from the institute's premises and ''being lenient '' with the agitating doctors and students.

On June 15, the AIIMS Director went public with his grievances against the Health Minister and threatened to resign.

He had had accused Dr Ramadoss of ''systematic diluting and undermining'' the autonomy of AIIMS and the authority of the director. Dr Venugopal had also appriser the Prime Minister about the situation.

The AIIMS Director had alleged that the Health Minister was also ''interfering '' in day-to-day working of AIIMS.

He then proceeded on leave for almost ten days.

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

Despite court orders that no punitive action will be taken against striking doctors, the Health Ministry had stopped salaries of the striking doctors, saying ''no work no pay''.

In protest, the doctors had moved the court against the move.

Today's decision came after a three-hour emergency meeting of the AIIMS Institute and Governing Body, presided over by Dr Ramadoss.

BJP leader V K Malhotra, a member of the Institute and Governing Body who attended the meeting, told reporters that most of the members opposed the move to dismiss Dr Venugopal.

''The issue was not listed in the main agenda but Dr Ramadoss brought a supplementary agenda to dismiss the AIIMS Director,'' he added.

''This is a draconian decision and even during the emergency, this did not happen,'' he said.

According to Mr Malhotra, the order to dismiss Dr Venugopal will come into force immediately but he will be given three months salary.

Although Dr Venugopal was present at the meeting initially, he was asked to leave when the supplementary agenda was tabled by the Health Minister.

''He was not even given a opportunity to explain his stand,'' the BJP leader added.

UNI

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