Den of corruption

The arrest of the Medical Council of India president Ketan Desai last week has again drawn attention to the faulty functioning of the body and many irregularities in it. Desai has been charged with  accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore for granting recognition to a medical college in Punjab. This is said to be only the tip of the iceberg. When corruption in the IPL seems to be the flavour of the day, the MCI  seems to have done worse. The CBI, according to reports, expects to recover about Rs 2,500 crore in cash, 1,500 kg of gold and other properties from him. He has controlled the MCI for many years. Raids and corruption charges are not new to him either. Desai was forced to step down as MCI president in 2001 following a Delhi high court order which held him guilty of corruption and misuse of office. But he staged a comeback last year and is now even president of the World Medical Association.

The MCI has a major role in the country’s medical education and  in setting standards for the profession. It approves and grants affiliation to medical colleges, and has to ensure uniform academic standards. But it has often been called a den of corruption. Desai is said to have accepted Rs 25-30 crore and more for an approval. Apart from the MCI team, he had formed a personal contingent of about 20 inspectors to visit colleges. Not only has the MCI failed in its functions but it has helped malpractices like capitation fee to grow. Almost every decision and activity had a corrupt dimension. Desai has recently been trying to extract money for approval of the new rural medical courses planned by the government.

Desai would not have been operating alone. During the investigation names of others in the MCI and the health ministry have come up. Connections in politics and business are also sure to follow. Major reforms are needed in the MCI and the health ministry if medical education has to be improved. Some time ago it was found that membership of the MCI was not representative and in violation of the rules, there were as many nominated members as there were elected ones. The present raid and investigation should not end up as a flash in the pan and should lead to lasting reforms.

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