Claiming not to shirk his responsibilities, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has blamed the state governments for the spread of dengue, which has so far taken toll of over 130 lives across the country.
In an interview with Karan Thapar for the CNN-IBN programme Devil's Advocate to be telecast Sunday, Ramadoss states, "Even though I don't want to shy away from my responsibilities, it is the state governments who have to take steps."
According to the health minister every year ministry experts go round the country to study the scenario and as per the national vector policy advise the state governments.
"They say here's a high density of mosquito growth, of vector growth, and they say you have to take steps, take decisions. We provide chemicals and larvaecides," said Ramadoss.
"We advise them, we give them all these things (and) the manpower. I don't want to shy away from the responsibility. I'm responsible (no doubt) but health is a state subject, they do the policies, they do the implementation."
In the midst of many a controversy over the last few months - whether the decision to oust All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director P. Venugopal or the reservation issue, the minister feels he is a victim of media sensationalism.
Ramadoss says that "compared to last year, this year we have much less cases of dengue and much less deaths" whilst insisting that the situation has been "hyped-up" by the media.
On AIIMS director, Ramadosss states that while "Venugopal is one of the best doctors in this country. We all respect him. But he's also one of the worst administrators in this country ... It is not as if a good doctor can become a good administrator as well."
Describing India's premier health institute as 'the All India Institute of Political Sciences', Ramadoss said today doctors were indulging in strikes and politics rather than treating patients.
"Today the AIIMS is slowly becoming the All India Institute of Political Sciences. See these guys should do what they know best - treat patients - and not go into flash strikes and politics. Today, unfortunately, politics has been creeping into AIIMS ..."
Ramadoss claimed that he had "bunches of letters" from faculty, resident doctors and students and "they wanted me to remove him (Venugopal)".
"Just four months ago, before the strike (against reservation), 99 percent of AIIMS was against Venugopal. I have got bunches of letters written by the same faculty association, resident doctors, employees, students that he is inaccessible (and) incoherent. Nobody could access him. They wanted me to remove him. (Now) this anti-reservation strike has changed everything."
Asked why this was not known earlier, Ramadoss said, "The media is not reporting it".
Sought to know whether the fact that he had slapped 45 cases against Venugopal showed that he either had an ego problem with him or simply disliked him, the health minister said that this was a false media perception.
"They say Ramadoss (versus) Venugopal. I don't know why? I have more important things than to take on Dr. Venugopal ..."
On his insistence on a ban on smoking in films, Ramadoss said, "Today, if Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan tell women to immunise their children there are millions who will take their children to be immunised for polio. If the same Amitabh Bachchan has a cigarette in his mouth there are millions of children who are going to take it up ..."
"My experts say Shah Rukh Khan smoking in a movie is much more effective than a direct advertisement of a tobacco product."
The health minister admitted that he is not averse to seeking a ban on manufacture of cigarettes and beedis and also ban tobacco growing.
"I would be very happy (to press for a total ban on cigarettes). This ban is just a question of time," he said.
The ban on smoking in films, Ramadoss states may be a first step towards a total ban on cigarette and beedi manufacture and tobacco growing.