The Rajya Sabha has passed the controversial bill fixing the retirement age of the director of AIIMS. This is in a move apparently aimed at removing incumbent director P Venugopal . The latter is locked in a turf war with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
The AIIMS (Amendment) Bill, 2007 also fixes the age limit for the head of another premier institute PGI, Chandigarh. This too was passed amidst din as several members of BJP and AIIDMK rushed to the well of the House to protest the Bill.
The passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha has put the Parliament's seal of approval to the legislation after the Lok Sabha passed it on November 22.
The legislative measure holds that "the director shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or until he attains 65 years of age."
The legislation also follows a Delhi High Court order that the retirement age of 62 for teaching faculty and 60 for non-teaching faculty does not apply in the case of Director.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 patients were unable to see their doctor, as the Out Patient Department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) , Delhi remained shut Thursday.
"If the bill is signed, the entire AIIMS will be paralyzed," Dr Harsh Kumar, president, RDA, had said. "The situation is worse than Pakistan. There was a lot of resistance in Lok Sabha at the time of passage of the bill. Only selected information was made available to the public. Who says we are a democratic nation?" he had added.
The bill was being seen as a weapon which Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss hoped to use to remove the medical institute's director P Venugopal.
"It is an unfortunate situation as the battle between two individuals is going to affect thousands of helpless patients. But strike is absolutely inevitable," a senior doctor of the institute was quoted.
"We are extremely pained about the fact that this person (Ramadoss) successfully misled the House and the bill was passed," BK Khaitan, president was reported.
In the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, several MPs protested the introduction of the bill, saying that it was not given in the day's schedule. This prompted Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan to later announce that the day's business had been revised to include the bill.
"As a mark of protest against this, we resolve that in the event of the bill being passed by the upper house, we will have no choice left but to resort to direct action," said Kahitan.
The move to strike had come in the face of the Delhi High Court's pleas that they should not put patients to inconvenience believing that "there is nobody to take action against them." The court's observation is a reminder of its earlier decision to ban strikes in hospitals.
The Division Bench headed by Chief Justice M K Sharma was quoted: "They are merrily going on strike as if there is nobody to take action against them...Although there are court orders."
The court's outburst has come amidst a batch of petitions seeking improvement of infrastructure in government hospitals.
The court has also asked the Director General of Central Health Services and Principal Health Secretary, NCT Delhi, to tour hospitals and file a status report within three weeks.