M A I N   N E W S

Centre asks for AIIMS Director’s explanation
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
The Health Ministry today sought an explanation from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director, Dr P. Venugopal, for carrying tales to the public on the alleged interference of the Health Ministry in the functioning of the premier institute.

Health Minister Ambhumani Ramadoss told mediapersons here on Wednesday that a letter had been sent to Dr Venugopal asking for his explanation. “It was wrong on his part to rake up the issue in public.’’

Cornered by the Health Ministry and a section of the faculty, Dr Venugopal can however find solace in the support extended to him by students and resident doctors of AIIMS. The resident doctors and students have acknowledged his efforts in contributing to the international status of AIIMS and in the same breath accusing the Health Minister of converting the AIIMS into the All-India Institute of Political Sciences.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office today clarified that Manmohan Singh had full respect for the autonomy of AIIMS. “The Prime Minister has the highest regard for institutes of excellence in this country. He believes in preserving the autonomy of these institutions and believes that these institutions have a larger important national role to play,” Prime Minister’s Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru said here on Wednesday.

On the issue of setting up a three-member panel to look into the functioning of AIIMS, Baru said: “We should look forward to this intervention. It is intervention from the Prime Ministerial level.”

The Health Minister, on his part, clarified that he had not cancelled the meeting of the AIIMS faculty, doctors and students. He said he would address the meeting which was scheduled to take place today after a fortnight as some faculty members were on vacation.

Asked if he had put off the meeting to avoid trouble, Ramadoss said: “Absolutely not. It is my institute, I am a part of the institute, I don’t see any trouble. I want to address the faculty and students.”

The Health minister said the terms of reference would be finalised this week for the three-member panel headed by M.S. Valiathan, former Director of the Sri Chitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology. Ramadoss said he was the last person to interfere with the autonomy of any institute. “But at the same time, I will not shy away if I feel that any institute is not functioning properly. AIIMS is meant to serve poor patients.”

Acknowledging that Venugopal was a reputed doctor, the Health Minister said the AIIMS administration under his leadership had not been functioning properly for the last two years.

“I don’t want to wash dirty linen in public,” he said.

The minister said instead of being a medical hub, AIIMS has been turned into a political hub with some political parties trying to play petty politics.

He disagreed with the suggestion that he had been tough with junior doctors by not releasing their salaries for participating in the anti-reservation stir.




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