Saturday, 8 July 2006

Ramadoss Running Amok ?

In a shocking Development, Dr. P Venugopal, leading Cardiologist and Director of the prestigious AIIMS, Delhi was unilaterally sacked on July 5th. This seems like a predestined conclusion to the long running feud between the "Honorable" Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Anbumani (sometimes spelt Ambumani) Ramadoss and Dr. Venugopal.

The Delhi High Court, stayed the Dismissal on Friday. So, the striking doctors of AIIMS got back to work after 3 days and patients are being taken care of again.

To get back to the issue, The background to this story is a 2 year old battle between the two. They've been at loggerheads ever since Ramadoss, a doctor himself, was appointed minister and he took over the AIIMS guest house for a lengthy period till he was allotted an official bungalow. The institute's grapevine is laden with stories about frequent clashes between the minister and the hospital administration over the lavish renovations at the guest house (which the AIIMS budget had to fund), the meals that went beyond the regular menu and the constant stream of visitors who had nothing to do with medicine.

Then, there was that ugly incident when Ramadoss decided to pay a midnight visit to the casualty ward. He didn't like what he found, summoned Venugopal and upbraided him and other senior doctors publicly. They've been at daggers drawn since. The friction exploded in a lightning strike by Class IV employees of the hospital, for which the faculty grapevine blamed some associates of the minister. Quick health check needed : Credit : DNA

Dr. Venugopal was ostensibly dismissed because of his soft stance on the Reservation issue. Those of you who followed Phase II of the Reservation protests (2006) in India, would remember that, the Medicos against Reservation was spearheaded by Medical Students at AIIMS on the AIIMS campus which was also the site for a Hunger Strike.

Ramadoss fired another salvo at the end of June. when an order pertaining to pay of striking doctors, issued by Dr. Venugopal, was described as 'null and void' by an official junior to him.

This entire "Reservation + Strike" issue gave Dr Ramadoss (as Health Minister, he also holds the position of president of AIIMS) the ideal excuse to sack Dr. P Venugopal.

After a 3 hour long meeting, the 17-member body of AIIMS passed the resolution for Venugopal's ouster despite three members expressing a voice dissent, said senior BJP leader V K Malhotra. He also said that Ramadoss suddenly brought in a supplementary resolution seeking removal of Dr Venugopal. In his generosity, Ramadoss offered that Dr. Venugopal be given 3 months salary but his services would be terminated immediately.

If this was just one vendetta of Dr. Ramadoss against Dr. Venugopal perhaps it could be forgotten in time as all other foibles of Indian politicians are. But Dr. Ramadoss seems to be using his office to massage his own ego.

If you look back at June of last year, Ramadoss proposed a ban on smoking in films and TV serials Now although there is ample proof against tobacco being bad for you, logic says that you should prevent the production and sale of tobacco, if you really are concerned about the health of a billion plus population. This was exactly the argument of Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi. But Ramadoss was not willing to listen to reason. . .

It is a well known fact that his father, PMK leader S Ramadoss has had spells of bitter duels with filmstar Rajnikanth including a murder charge. Anyone who has watched a Rajnikanth movie or visited Tamil Nadu would know of his trademark style of throwing a cigarette in the air & catching it between his lips. This proposed ban seemed like a direct salvo against Rajnikant.

Fortunately, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said that while all measures need to be taken to discourage smoking, "content of a character (in any artistic venture) cannot be dictated or interfered with".

Looking at these cases, it seems that Ramadoss is hell bent on using his time in power to settle old scores and the new ones that he creates for himself.

If you want to write to the Minister himself, the Ministry for Health & Family Welfare site lists the following contact details :
Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Nirman Bhavan,
Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi - 110011

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