The selection of a candidate from the general pool of doctors to the Medical Council of India (MCI) this week, has raised questions about the irregularities in the process.
On Tuesday, R. Ravindran, an ophthalmologist from Udhi Eye Hospital, was declared elected unopposed to MCI, as all the other contestants had withdrawn. Initially, 18 candidates were in the fray but only 10 qualified after scrutiny.
On Monday, which was the last date for withdrawal of nominations, eight candidates withdrew from the contest, which doctors said was due to political pressure.
However, since Dr. Manivel, one of the candidates, had not withdrawn until Monday afternoon, there were still two candidates in the fray and the elections seemed set to go through. But on Tuesday afternoon, V. Kanagabasai, director of medical education (additional charge), who is also the returning officer for the election, declared that Dr. Ravindran had been elected unopposed.
The candidates who withdrew in his favour are G.R. Ravindranath of Doctors for Social Equality; L.P. Thangavelu, president of Indian Medical Association – TN branch; P. Balakrishnan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association and R. Manivel, in charge of industrial health at the Directorate of Public Health.
While it is alleged that Dr. Manivel was coerced into withdrawing his nomination after the deadline, doctors are also concerned that the election process itself has been compromised. There was no announcement about the election on the government website. There was only a form for potential candidates to fill in.
“Every five years elections are held but there is no change in the process. We need a transparent election process to ensure that the voice of all doctors is heard,” said a senior practitioner.
Dr. Kanagasabai however, said the turn of events had cut costs for the government, which would have otherwise spent Rs. 31 lakh on the election.
The cost of printing the ballot papers, providing profiles of candidates and mailing them to doctors would have to be borne by the government, he said.
Doctors also alleged that MCI’s electoral rolls are not updated regularly. So far, MCI has issued no notification about the status of postgraduate medical students, say doctors.
Also, the Tamil Nadu Medical Council (TNMC) last updated the list of registered practitioners in December 2012. That means at least 3,000 doctors’ names have not been included in the electoral rolls. Around 5,000 to 7,000 postgraduate medical students, who are registered in their respective States, are estimated to be in Tamil Nadu, but don’t figure in the electoral rolls.
During the TNMC election held last year, a total of 80,000 ballots were despatched and over 30,000 were returned as ‘addressee not found’. To date, the anomaly has not been set right, members say.