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AAP lens on health secy transfer

New Delhi, Feb. 28: The Aam Aadmi Party today released a document that it claims confirms suspicions that the Union health secretary was transferred because he had warned that a tainted doctor was seeking to regain control of India’s apex medical regulatory agency.

The Centre had transferred health secretary Keshav Desiraju earlier this month amid speculation that the official was being punished for having questioned efforts by an Ahmedabad-based doctor, Ketan Desai, to return to the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Desai, who had twice been MCI president, was arrested by the CBI in April 2010 over allegations that he had sought a bribe from a medical college. He is out on bail.

In 2001, Delhi High Court had removed Desai as MCI boss on charges of misuse of office and taking money, but he had later returned to the post and was ousted a second time following his 2010 arrest.

The document released today by AAP leader and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan is an internal note written by Desiraju on January 7 this year, in which he expressed concerns at the MCI’s functioning.

“It is widely believed that decisions within the MCI are being taken by a group led by Dr Ketan Desai,” the note says.

“In these circumstances, there is every likelihood that we will be forced to approve and notify decisions (on) courses (and) admissions which have been made on grounds other than merit alone.”

Desiraju had also written: “It is widely alleged that several undesirable elements have become members of the Medical Council by being nominated by various categories. We have been unable to in most cases to prevent their formal notification.”

But a PTI report tonight said that Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had justified the secretary’s transfer saying Desiraju’s “casual approach and lack of attention to detail had caused him serious embarrassment”.

In a letter to cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth on February 24, Azad had accused Desiraju of “absent-mindedness”, the PTI report said.

“In all meetings chaired by me including with foreign delegations, I found him busy for most part in receiving and sending SMSs and emails on his mobile phone,” the letter said.

“He paid scant attention to deliberations and left it to his subordinates to participate in the discussions. His own contribution was invariably negligible.”

At his news conference, Bhushan also released documents that, according to his party, show that the Congress, BJP and the Samajwadi Party have all lent support to Desai in his efforts to regain control over the MCI, an agency that regulates medical education and the medical profession.

After Desai’s arrest in 2010, the government had dissolved the MCI and replaced it with a board of governors. But in November 2013, Bhushan said, the government reconstituted the council using the existing rules, ignoring its own pledge that the panel would be replaced with a new agency for human resources in health.

The board of governors that manages the MCI’s affairs had in October 2010 called on the Gujarat medical council to revoke Desai’s licence. But, Bhushan said, the state medical council under the Narendra Modi government did not obey the board’s directive.

Among the documents Bhushan released was a letter Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav purportedly wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 9 last year, advocating Desai’s re-entry into the MCI so he could attend a meeting scheduled for December 10.

All of this shows that “the Congress, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party have joined hands in Desai’s endeavour to enter the Medical Council of India again”, an AAP release said.

These three parties have set aside their ideological differences to support a known corrupt person, the AAP alleged, accusing the trio of displaying contempt for medical education in India and jeopardising the country’s healthcare system.