New Delhi, July 5
Soon after the news about Dr Venugopal's dismissal spread, the Resident Doctors Association that has a strength of 1200 gave a call for strike. They announced that AIIMS was totally shut down and neither the Casualty nor the OPDs would function. Only the Intensive Care Units and the Coronary Care Units would work. The Faculty Association of AIIMS (FAIMS) also decided to go on a 24-hour flash strike to register their protest over the Director's removal. FAIMS general secretary K.K. Handa demanded the immediate withdrawal of the order on Dr Venugopal's dismissal.
The 17-member apex decision-making body proposed to consider the termination of Dr Venugopal's term with immediate effect and give his salaries and allowances in lieu of government conduct rules under Regulation 31.
The proposal was okayed after the Health Minister only allowedrecording of three notes of dissent.
Briefing mediapersons on the proceedings of the three-hour-long meeting, BJP MP and institute body member V.K. Malhotra criticised the manner in which an eminent heart surgeon was humiliated. Mr Malhotra said that although everybody, except one member from Tamil Nadu opposed the procedure, the Health Minister went ahead with his dictatorial ways. The BJP MP said Ramadoss asked Dr Venugopal to leave the room as he wanted to discuss about him with other members. Ramadoss turned a deaf ear to repeated requests by members that the AIIMS Director be given a fair chance to present his case in keeping with the principles of natural justice. He insisted that the AIIMS Director be removed for violating the code of conduct.
“Ramadoss repeatedly said that he had the sanction of the highest authority and used the Prime Minister's name to bully and browbeat other members,” Mr Malhotra alleged. He said that the Health Minister raised the issue on Dr Venugopal's continuance as Director by bringing a supplementary agenda. He asserted that he has the powers to discuss a supplementary agenda without any prior notice.
The BJP leader accused the ministry of destroying the autonomy of all institutes, one by one. He said that such a draconian step was unprecedented and he would raise the issue in Parliament. Commenting on the unpleasant developments, Mr Malhotra said, “This is a black day. It is the saddest day for the institute.”
Asked if Dr Venugopal was being replaced by PGI Director, Professor K.K. Talwar, the BJP leader said that the Health Secretary P.K. Hota's name had been proposed.
The visibly shaken AIIMS Director had to be helped to his car. He chose not to respond to mediapersons at all.
The Heath Minister and the head of the institute made an appearance at about 3 pm only to tell journalists that the Institute Body of AIIMS had given a recommendation to the government. He said that “the recommendation is privileged information and he cannot divulge any more information at this point of time.”
Squatted on the road in front of the Jawaharlal Auditorium at AIIMS with junior residents, RDA president Dr Binod Patro demanded that Dr Venugopal be reinstated and Dr Ramadoss be sacked. “The institute is totally shut down. Only the ICUs and CCUs will function. We are also hoping that all autonomous institutions, including PGI, Chandigarh and Sanjay Gandhi PGI, Lucknow will join the strike. We have the support of five other democratic associations on the campus that represent the faculty, scientists and employees.”
Meanwhile, AIIMS was in a state of chaos in the afternoon as patient care services were crippled. Outsiders were not being allowed to step into the emergency and patients were being referred to other hospitals and private nursing homes.
Meanwhile, Dr Venugopal's residence gate was bolted from inside and outsiders were not allowed entry.
The Left Parties have condemned Venugopal's removal and sought the intervention of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. They said that they disapprove the government’s meddling in the functioning of the premier institute.
The Indian Medical Association has also criticised Venugopal's removal. Terming the decision as “very unfortunate”, IMA president- elect Dr Sanjeev Malik sought the intervention of the President and the Prime Minister in the matter.