The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha stick for straying medics

New Delhi, Sept. 22 (PTI): Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha has warned that disciplinary action will be taken against government doctors who were staying abroad without authorisation.

“You can’t have the cake and eat it too,” he said, referring to a large number of doctors from the prestigious All-India Institute of Medical Sciences who left the country on leave for specific purposes but overstayed.

Sinha said the government had already initiated disciplinary action against some of these doctors, who should either return home or resign from their jobs.

Reports said as many as 30 AIIMS doctors had been staying abroad for periods ranging between two and seven years. They usually go for a year and then extend their stay, flouting rules.

The health minister said the government was contemplating tightening the law against spurious drugs flooding the market and might bring a Bill to amend the provisions of the existing laws.

“Law is there but it is not adequate. We must strengthen the law as spurious drug manufacturers are the real killers and anti-nationals,” Sinha said.

At present, if spurious drugs are found, the onus to prove that the medicine did not belong to them lies with the manufacturers of genuine medicines, Sinha said.

“We have to find ways and means. We have to strengthen the law and we may move a Bill,” Sinha, who will be completing 100 days in office on October 10, said. The punishment will be made a deterrent, he added.

The Bill could have provisions to check, monitor, catch and punish those who are doing business in spurious drugs.

“Emotionally speaking, they deserve capital punishment,” the minister said.

Referring to the non-availability of several life-saving drugs in government hospitals, Sinha favoured bulk purchase of medicines from manufacturers rather than from chemists so as to achieve the twin objectives of acquiring the medicines cheaper and checking corruption.

However, this should be done by floating proper tenders and without compromising on quality.

On the functioning of out-patients’ departments (OPDs) in government hospitals only in the morning hours, the minister said evening OPDs would start functioning at Safdarjung Hospital “very soon”. Such facilities would also be introduced at the AIIMS.

Sinha said he had met Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant and finance minister Jaswant Singh and sought more budgetary support for the health ministry.

Stating that his ministry was constantly trying to improve the condition and performance of government hospitals, Sinha said he had also asked the urban development ministry and state governments to rope in corporate houses and the private sector by offering them land on lease to construct hospitals.

Referring to the recent spurt in polio cases in Uttar Pradesh and some other parts of the country, Sinha said: “If not brought down to zero level, it can turn into an epidemic problem.”

Favouring an incentive scheme to check population, he, however, said no coercive measures would work to achieve the goal.

Warning that population control should not lead to an uneven male-female ratio, Sinha cited the example of Punjab and Haryana where the male population outnumbered the females.

Office shift not due to superstition

Dismissing the charge that he was superstitious, Sinha said: “I am the rarest Bihari who doesn’t wear rings”.

Reports had suggested that he was getting his office shifted from the first to the third floor in Nirman Bhavan because of his numerological preference for the number three, Sinha said neither did he understand nor believe in numerology.

Shifting his office to another floor was “only for practical reasons and convenience,” he said, adding, he was not shifting his office from Nirman Bhawan to some other place such as Rail Bhawan.

Discounting criticism that he seldom stayed in India ever since he assumed charge, Sinha said he would travel abroad more frequently when he was in the film industry.

Asked to comment on appointing a Delhi police constable in his security detail as his private assistant (PA), the minister said there was no undue favour shown to the security person, who had been with him for the past 10 years.

He was entitled to appointing anybody as PA and the controversy that the constable drew a higher pay scale as PA was uncalled for. He will get that scale only as long as he remains his PA and then revert to the original Delhi police pay scale, Sinha said.

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