Politics and medicine are entirely different fields. But when the two mingle, it could prove an explosive cocktail. As it is happening in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the Indian capital New Delhi.
The AIIMS is a premier medical institution, fully funded by the federal government, and there is heavy rush for admission to the various courses offered by it.
Over a period of time problems in governance have begun to assume alarming proportions.
Nearly 700 undergraduate and postgraduate medical students who passed out of the institution since 2005 had to move the courts to get their degree certificates. Federal Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had refused to sign their certificates citing procedural irregularities. The Minister, who is also president of the AIIMS, had contended that the certificates forwarded to him did not bear the signature of an authorised registrar and therefore he would not endorse them.
The serving registrar is a nominee of the AIIMS director Dr.P.Venugopal, with whom the minister is engaged in a bitter battle ever since he took office three years ago.
The Federal Health Minister's very first meeting with Venugopal turned out to be bitter. Anbumani Ramadoss had moved into the AIIMS guest house with his family before he was allotted an official ministerial bungalow in New Delhi. Heady with his new-found clout, he reportedly ordered around Venugopal, going to the extent of asking him to get him some groceries. An enraged Venugopal promptly leaked the information to the media and a furore followed.
It might have died down after a while, but the embers are still very much there and they keep bursting into flames every now and then, say those familiar with the scene.
A year ago, when resident doctors and students of the AIIMS went on a strike opposing the federal government's move to provide 27 percent reservation to socially backward students in premier State education institutions, Anbumani Ramadoss blamed Venugopal for instigating them.
The minister accused him of working against social justice accused him of working against social justice and went on to orchestrate a campaign to kick Venugopal out of the AIIMS.
Sadly for Anbumani Ramadoss though, all his anti-Venugopal moves have came to naught - thus far the courts have intervened only in Venugopal's favour. Licking his wounds after the certificate tussle, the minister could be expected to pounce on the director soon under some pretext or other, setting off yet another bout of row in the AIIMS.
It is not as if Venugopal is a saint either, whatever his pretensions of being a crusader. He is known to indulge in his own type of politicking, drumming up support for himself among certain sections of students and the faculty and also lobbying with the power brokers in New Delhi.
On Wednesday, for instance, he refused to appear before an inquiry committee headed by Anbumani Ramadoss unless his supporters too were permitted to be present at the inquiry, something against the norms that. Venugopal is also believed to plant stories in the media against the minister.
The best solution would be to divest the cantankerous Ramadoss of his Health portfolio and also find a replacement for Venugopal who is overreaching himself, say observers. Otherwise the very future of this prestigious institution could be in danger.