Letter to PM questions transfer of health secretary

Desiraju was ‘reluctant’ to notify re-entry of Ketan Desai in MCI 

Ten days after Union health secretary Keshav Desiraju was removed from his post, noted scholars, industrialists and former bureaucrats have approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claiming Desiraju was transferred because he wanted to “stem the rot” in the Medical Council of India.

In a letter to the prime minister, ten eminent citizens wrote they construed the motivation (for shunning Desiraju out of the ministry) could have something to do with the health secretary’s reluctance to notify the scam-tainted former MCI president Ketan Desai’s re-entry in the regulatory body as new member.

Several non-governmental organisations have voiced similar opinions in the last two weeks after the seasoned bureaucrat – grandson of former president S Radhakrishnan – was unceremoniously removed after completing only one year as the secretary.

However, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Patiala it was a routine matter.The signatories of the latter include Infosys chief N R Narayan Murthy, Biocon’s Kiran Mazumder Shaw, former governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, historian Ramchandra Guha and two former union health secretaries, Naresh Dayal and Sujatha Rao among others.Nobel laureate Amartya Sen too stated last week in Kolkata that Desiraju’s transfer was regrettable. 

“The arbitrary transfer of well-performing senior public servants leading the necessary reforms of healthcare jeopardises effective long-range planning and implementation,” says a statement issued by a group of intellectuals headed by Sen.

The academicians and NGOs believe the bureaucrat was sent to the consumer affairs ministry because be blocked the doors of MCI for Desai, who was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Out on bail, in October 2013, Desai was nominated to the MCI by the Gujarat University, despite two cases pending against him in the courts. He is not yet a member of the MCI for want of the notification by the Government of India.

Based on a consultation with the CBI, Desiraju did not agree to issue the notification facilitating Desai's re-entry into the MCI, the scholars claimed. Health Ministry sources, however, denied this and claimed higher ups in the government was involved in Desiraju’s transfer.

Asking the Prime Minister to constitute a high-level committee for reviewing the regulator, the scholars and bureaucrats said the rot that had set in the MCI needed to be stemmed.

“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, real estate agents, etc — people with neither commitment for nor interest in medical education, own a majority of the private medical colleges,” they said.

The UPA government’s plan to replace the corruption-ridden MCI with a National Commission for Human Resources on Health came to a nought after three years of efforts as a House panel had rejected the legislation outright.

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