The selection of the director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) is not guided by any formally laid down criteria, according to Union Health Secretary C K Mishra. Candidates for the prestigious post are shortlisted after reviewing CVs and achievements of applicants. PGI earlier this year had issued an advertisement calling applications for the post of the director.
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The advertisement said an applicant should have 21-year standing in the profession after post-graduation, and teaching or research experience of not less than 14 years. The upper age limit for an applicant should “not exceed 60 years”, the advert said, adding that this was “relaxable for government servants or few other categories”.
The selection process was put on hold by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Thursday after receiving a complaint from an SC and ST body of PGI alleging discrimination in the process against SC candidates. The SC and ST body has shot off a new letter to the commission.
The institute body (IB) of the PGI had last week recommended three names to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) to select the institute director. Dr Anil Bhansali, head of Department of Endocrinology, Dr Meenu Singh, who is from the Department of Paediatrics, and Dr Jagat Ram, head, Advance Eye Centre, were initially recommended by a selection committee headed by Union Health Secretary C K Mishra and constituted by the health ministry.
“There have never been any criteria to select the PGI director. The committee only goes by the performance and CVs, and then selects. We only see whether applicant qualifies, the basic eligibility criteria, and rest is all how they present themselves,” Union Health Secretary C K Mishra told Chandigarh Newsline.
In August, Union Health Ministry J P Nadda, who was authorised by the institute body to form a search and selection committee, constituted a three-member committee, headed by Mishra. They called 29 applicants for interview and 26 candidates appeared before the committee on October 20. The committee recommended three names to the institute body.
All the candidates were asked to prepare a five-slide presentation which should include two on applicant achievements and three on vision about the institute.
Constitution of a selection committee started in 2011, when the ministry had to select a new PGI director. Prior to that, officials said it was the institute body which would discuss the names of the applicants called for the post and then one name was recommended to the government on the basis of seniority and other parameters.
This year, the three-member panel recommended by the search and selection committee, however, triggered resentment among senior faculty members, few of whom have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighting the “deficiencies” in the shortlisted panel.
Of the three shortlisted candidates, according to senior faculty members, one of them is junior in terms of professor seniority list, while another candidate had faced a vigilance probe in 2004.
The first candidate on the list is Dr Anil Bhansali. In the past, Bhansali had faced a probe after the institute’s vigilance committee investigated how a private lab was functioning in the Department of Endocrinology without the permission of the institute. No private lab is allowed to operate inside the PGI.
The vigilance committee then filed its report in 2006, and concluded that “conducting of urinary micro albumin and createnine ratio estimation on CT status instrument of private company… with the permission of Dr Anil Bhansali, HoD endocrinology, is established”. The report also termed the claim of Bhansali that the instrument was gifted to the department “apparently wrong and misleading”.
“Dr Anil Bhansali has not taken the permission of the higher authority for the installation of the CT status instrument by a private company in the department for the estimation of urinary microalbumin and createnine ratio,” reads the report, adding that Bhansali himself admitted the “procedural lapses also”. The committee recommended that an advisory note be issued to exercise caution in such matters henceforth.
On the seniority list of the professors, Bhansali ranks 37th. If selected for the top post, he has only four years available till he retires in 2020.
Adding to the resentment is the candidature of Professor Meenu Singh, from Department of Paediatrics, who figures second on the list. She is numbered 58th on the seniority list of professors at PGI. Doctors question how a “junior professor” be selected for the post of director, when she has never headed a department. She holds charge of telemedicine centre at PGI.
Meenu had earlier told Chandigarh Newsline that she was “heading” the telemedicine department, but the institute’s spokeswoman Manju Wadwalkar said on Friday that the telemedicine centre was an “advance centre only and department in the making”.
“By ignoring the senior professors of the institute for the top post, you are opening a Pandora’s box,” said a senior faculty member. “Ignoring senior professors means you are not giving any preference to their seniority and administrative experience.”
Few anti-corruption bodies, too, have written to the Prime Minister. “I have written a letter to Prime Minister saying that the selection of panel is unfair and made a request to review it in the interest of institute of national importance and public at large,” said Subhash Chander, chairman of Anti-Corruption Front, Chandigarh.