Satadru Pakhira, who slashed his wrist on Thursday, outside the CBI court in Asansol. Picture by Santosh Kumar Mandal
New Delhi/Asansol, March 21: The CBI has launched a nationwide hunt for “doctors” practising with fake licences, obtained allegedly by bribing some officials of the apex medical regulator, the Medical Council of India.
To illustrate the scale of the racket, an official said the agency had obtained leads about a middleman who regularly travelled to China to broker such deals with Indian students of “poor quality” medical colleges there.
The CBI had yesterday arrested five suspect “doctors”, including a 28-year-old from Asansol whose wedding is being fixed and who the sleuths said slashed his wrist to try and escape further “humiliation”.
It emerged today that the CBI detained three more suspects last night and has included their names in the FIR, but has not yet arrested them.
“We have also started questioning some Medical Council of India (MCI) officials. Besides, we have got the names of several middlemen. Raids are on to arrest them,” CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Telegraph.
“There are many such doctors in the country who studied in substandard foreign medical colleges and practise with fake licences. They are playing with the lives of hundreds of people.”
Doctors with foreign medical degrees need to pass an Indian screening test, conducted by the MCI, to practise in the country. “But of the 10,000 to 14,000 doctors who take the test every year, only 20 to 25 per cent clear it,” a CBI official said.
Agency sources said the eight arrested or detained suspects did not even take the test — an allegation that ties in with the claim about the middleman who taps students before they even return to India.
However, Asish Mukherjee, the public prosecutor at the CBI court in Asansol, told the judge today that suspect Satadru Pakhira had twice taken the MCI test and failed each time.
All the five arrested suspects — who include two from Kerala and two from Gujarat — were today produced in local courts and are being brought to Delhi on transit remand. They have been charged with cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.
Agency sleuths said Satadru had got his medical degree from China while the seven other suspects got theirs from Russia.
Satadru’s father Manatosh, a clerk in a government bank, told this newspaper in Asansol that his son was innocent and had cleared the MCI test on his second attempt.
“I shall go to Delhi to clear his name,” he said, “but the CBI has seized all the medical certificates and documents from us.”
“Satadru’s father, it appears, is not aware of the facts,” a CBI officer in Delhi said. “We have checked everything with the MCI and it is clear he did not appear in the test. If everything was in order, why did Satadru panic and rush to the bathroom to slash his wrist? He could simply have defended himself.”
The officer said the agency would write to the medical college in China to find out whether Satadru’s graduation certificate was genuine.
Asked about the CBI’s claim that his son was to get married next week, Manatosh said: “Nothing has been finalised — the negotiations were on — but now the process will be put on hold till he clears his name.”
Manatosh claimed that Satadru’s “passion for medicine and love of mankind” had inspired him go to China to fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor.
“My son was a good student and secured star marks in both his Madhyamik and higher secondary examinations,” Manatosh said.
“He dreamt about becoming a doctor and treating the poor in the villages but he could not clear the (state) joint entrance examination. We could not afford the fees of the private medical colleges here, so he went to China after I managed to get a Rs 10-lakh education loan.”
Manatosh said Satadru had studied at the Luzhou Medical College in China, got his degree in 2011, and done a year’s internship at a hospital there.
After returning to India, he got a job on contract as a general physician at the government primary health centre in Pandabeshwar, Asansol, last year.
“Satadru was the only doctor at the health centre; the others are all assistants or attendants,” an employee at the health centre said.
“A large number of poor villagers turn up here every day. Satadru would prescribe medicines and, if needed, stitch patients’ cuts and give injections. But that’s as far as he would go. If the injuries were serious, he would refer the cases to the district hospital.”
Sinha had alleged yesterday that the five arrested suspects obtained fake licences “by paying between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 15 lakh to someone in the MCI”.
“In conspiracy with these officials, computer records in the MCI registration office were fudged through false entries and on that basis, registration certificates were issued,” he explained today.
The agency had registered the case early this month on the basis of information from “sources”.
“During questioning, the five accused doctors confessed and revealed the names of the middlemen. More arrests are likely in the next few days,” a CBI official claimed.