New Delhi: The Medical Council of India (MCI) elections in states have landed in controversy with reports coming from states that candidates are being forced to withdraw their nominations under pressure from corporate houses and state governments.
The most recent case is that of Tamil Nadu where candidates have alleged that they are being pressurized from some power centres to withdraw their nominations.
Out of the 10 candidates from Tamil Nadu who were declared eligible to contest the election slated for December 10, two of them have withdrawn their nominations.
Reportedly, some candidates have alleged that three candidates, including Dr D Shantharam, vice chancellor of Dr M G R Medical University, Chennai, are being favoured by the state government and some corporate houses, and the rest are being forced to withdraw.
Candidates have also alleged that senior government officials have been calling them and pressurizing to withdraw nominations.
India Medical Times discussed the issue with some senior medical professionals to understand how they see this problem and ways to tackle it.
Dr M C Gupta, a New Delhi based medico-legal consultant, agreed that such tactics are used by powerful candidates. He said, “I agree with this pretty well, such things do happen.”
Dr Kunal Saha, president, People for Better Treatment (PBT), opined, “Forcing anybody from any form of election would be the ultimate assault in any democratic society and considering the significance of election of members, I would say that it should be considered as a heinous crime if anyone attempts to force someone out of the ongoing MCI election. The allegations in regard to the present MCI election from various corners must be probed and dealt in the most transparent and stringent manner.”
Dr Saha went on to say that the notion that this is happening seemingly with the knowledge of the union health ministry is absolutely astounding. But then again the health ministry has miserably failed to curb the spread of corruption in the medical system, he said.
“They were forced to dissolve the last MCI only under increasing public pressure after then MCI president and a disgraced medical don, Dr Ketan Desai, was caught red-handed by the CBI for taking bribe from a private medical college. Indian government must assure a fair and impartial MCI election. The thousands of good and honest Indian doctors also cannot shy away from this ongoing atrocity with the MCI election and unless ordinary people of India are convinced that MCI is made of only honest doctors, the public trust on the medical community is likely to erode further,” Dr Saha, a US-based private consultant in HIV/AIDS, added.
Dr Gupta suggested, “Vigilant groups within the medical profession and the concerned candidates (other candidates who do not employ undesirable techniques) need to raise legal objections at appropriate forums/courts etc.”
Dr Saha said the MCI election should be taken as seriously as a parliament or assembly election by the Indian government. He suggested, “It should be conducted under the supervision of an Election Commission who must be a trustworthy figure with impeccable character and preferably from the ‘non-doctor’ section of our society which should avoid possible conflict of interest.”
He further said, “I fail to understand why the MCI elections are being conducted under the state medical councils whose credibility in India today is not much above zero. Allegations of corruption are rampant against the state medical councils.”
Questioning the whole election process, Dr Saha said, “Obviously, one would be naive to imagine that they would conduct a fair election and statistics available in India clearly supports this notion. Look at the election results – most medical councils and universities have chosen the MCI members who won their election ‘unopposed’. Is this the picture of a real and fair democratic election? How many elections in the country are won without contest?”
“The reason is not difficult to fathom. The mafias of Indian medicine are still running the show in most medical councils. Obviously, most ordinary and honest doctors are fearful about retaliatory action and they refrain from contesting the medical mafias even though they are in favour of an honest medical council. A complete transformation is necessary to get rid of the deep rot in the present healthcare delivery system,” he argued.
by Abhay Anand