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Updated: February 24, 2014 03:51 IST

Poser to PM: Why summary removal of Health Secretary?

Special Correspondent
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PUDUCHERRY, 18/11/2013: Keshav Desiraju, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, handing over medical card to Inspector General S.P. Sharma, Commander, Coast Guard Region (East), at the launch of Coast Guard Wellness Programme at Jipmer, in Puducherry. JIPMER Director T.S. Ravikumar is also seen. Photo: T. Singaravelou
The Hindu PUDUCHERRY, 18/11/2013: Keshav Desiraju, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, handing over medical card to Inspector General S.P. Sharma, Commander, Coast Guard Region (East), at the launch of Coast Guard Wellness Programme at Jipmer, in Puducherry. JIPMER Director T.S. Ravikumar is also seen. Photo: T. Singaravelou

A group of eminent citizens and former bureaucrats has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh questioning the removal of Keshav Desiraju as Health and Family Welfare Secretary without following any procedure.

The decision violated the Supreme Court order directing the government to fix a two-year tenure for senior government officials in the “interest of good governance.” In the event of a need for transfer before that period, the reasons will have to be recorded in writing by a Civil Services Board, to be constituted for issues related to personnel management. “It is therefore, unfortunate that a capable and competent officer has been summarily removed,” says the letter.

Mr. Desiraju was appointed Health and Family Welfare Secretary last year and was transferred to the Department of Consumer Affairs on February 11.

“Since we are at a loss to understand the reasons for this sudden transfer… we cannot but construe that the motivation could have something to do with his reluctance to notify Dr. Ketan Desai as member of the Medical Council of India,” says the letter.

“Though transfer is not a punishment, yet, we all know that it is an expression of a loss in confidence. And when the reason for sudden loss in confidence is unknown, it is demoralising not just for the officer but for the public at large. In transferring senior officers in this manner, a sense of distrust and dismay in the public mind is created, deepening the growing sense of alienation from the government.”

The signatories are Ramachandra Guha, historian and writer; Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former West Bengal Governor; Govind Rao, member, 14th Finance Commission; Naresh Dayal and Sujatha Rao, former Secretaries, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare; N.R Narayana Murthy, executive chairman, Infosys; Kiran Mazumdar, chairman and managing director, Biocon Ltd.; N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi & Sons Ltd.; Rama Baru, professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University; and Indrani Gupta, professor, Institute of Economic Growth.

Appealing to the Prime Minister to stem the rot that has set in in the MCI, they sought formation of a high level committee to review the adequacy of the existing legislation governing the Council. They also called for insulating the MCI from political interference, while ensuring that the standards set were strictly adhered to.

“The MCI that is expected to function as the regulator of medical education and medical practice is today an emasculated body, shorn of any dignity or moral authority. The cynical manner in which permissions for setting up medical colleges are accorded is a matter of great concern. Liquor barons, persons with powerful political connections, elected representatives, businessmen, and real estate agents, people with neither commitment for nor interest in medical education, own a majority of the private medical colleges. Most private colleges in India have inadequate faculty. Seats under management quota are sold to the highest bidders. The scale of corruption that has now overtaken medical education in the country has reached alarming proportions distorting the entire sector itself. MCI has collapsed as a regulatory and educational body for medical profession,” the letter said.

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