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Politics shadow falls on Nimhans chair

Bangalore, Sept. 27: Large sections of the academic fraternity and administration at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) are in a state of disquiet over the delay in the appointment of a new director.

There is an overwhelming apprehension at various levels of the renowned institute that the decision-making process for the appointment at the Union health ministry has got influenced by political considerations rather than academic merit or seniority.

This, these sections feel, would alter the character of the institute, considered one of the premier mental health institutions in the world.

Present director Gauri Devi’s five-year term ended on September 11 but the health ministry has asked her to continue till further arrangements are made. Obviously, there is some confusion in the ministry over the successor.

A panel of three doctors — Srinivas Murthy, K.V.R. Sastri and D. Nagaraj — shortlisted for the post was sent to Delhi from the institute in mid-August. But the decision is yet to be made.

The usual practice at the institute is to select on the basis of seniority in academic service. But technically, the Centre is not bound by this tradition.

The norms for the appointment of the director of Nimhans, a deemed university on par with the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, only stipulates that the director should have professional experience of at least 25 years. This experience need not necessarily be at the institute.

Many doctors at the institute, who did not wish to be named, said clauses like this are being used by sections of the Central government, particularly some BJP leaders with Karnataka connections.

If the practice of appointing the senior-most academic is followed, the front-runner is Murthy, a professor in the psychiatry department who has been at Nimhans close to two decades. He has been a professor for the past 16 years.

Sastri, professor and head of the department of neurology, has been here for more than a decade. The third candidate, the head of the neurology department, Nagaraj, joined the institute four years ago.

When contacted by The Telegraph, all three said they were not aware of the reasons for the delay. All of them, however, confirmed that their names were in the panel.

Gauri Devi asserted there is no unease in the campus over the delay in the appointment of the new director or the goings on at the Centre.

“This is a prestigious institute known the world over for its academic excellence and administrative integrity and please do not bring a bad name to it by writing about something non-existent,” she said.

“The delay is nothing extraordinary. Even my appointment order came four months late,” she added.

Inquiries within the Nimhans administration revealed that the delay five years ago was caused due to bureaucratic procedures. Unlike now, there was no confusion over the selection. Gauri Devi was the senior-most and she was appointed.

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