Observing that there is “conflict of interest” in the way the elections for the Dental Council of India are being conducted, the state government has deferred the polls. The election of the Maharashtra representative for the national body that was supposed to be held on July 24 will now be held on August 23. The development comes after dentists across the state raised objections over the candidature of a private association’s secretary.
In a letter, which the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) wrote to the medical education, and drugs department secretary, accessed by The Indian Express, it has been stated that the postal voting system would only be conducted after a proper system is in place for all licenced dentists across Maharashtra. The move came after dentist Dr Ajeet Shetty approached the government to highlight loopholes in the voting system. In the letter, the DMER said the software created to register the voters’ list was set-up by the general secretary of the Indian Dental Association (IDA), Dr Ashok Dhoble, who is, incidentally, also contesting the polls.
The Dental Council of India holds elections every five years to choose representatives from each state. The council, a quasi-judicial body, registers and monitors medical practice of dentists.
In Maharashtra, the polls to the national council will be held after almost 12 years. The DMER observed that there is conflict of interest as the Maharashtra State Dental Council website is also managed by the Indian Dental Association. Officials said the association funded the website’s formation and maintenance. “We are questioning how the dental council website, which is a government website, is managed by a private association,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, director at DMER. He added that after the dentist’s complaint, the government realised that the candidate had access to the entire voters’ list and the details, which could be used to influence voting and the results.
The DMER has now suggested that a system be put in place before the polls. Maharashtra has 38,000 dentists and only 19,000 of them are registered with the Maharashtra State Dental Council. The state government claimed that with only 50 per cent voters registered, the elections might be impacted.
Four dentist have applied to represent Maharashtra in the national council — Dr Sudharshan Ranpise, head of oral medicine and radiology in Navi Mumbai’s Bharati Vidyapeeth Dental College, Dr Sandesh Mayekar, a Mumbai-based practitioner, Dr Bhausaheb Dhage, a Mumbai-based private practitioner, and Dr Ashok Dhoble, the national secretary of IDA. The role of the Maharashtra Dental Council is to register and regulate practice of all dentists. Officials said dentists are supposed to renew licences every year. But 50 per cent dentists practice without registration.
Across the country, there are around three lakh dentists and of them, at least 15 per cent are members of the IDA. “If IDA secretary maintains a website of the state council, there is breach of data and privacy. There is also a huge conflict of interest if the association’s secretary, who helped create the software to handle voting process, is contesting,” said Dhage, an aspirant. He added that there are also concerns that addresses of all dentists are not correct in the council registry. “Several people eligible to vote through postal ballots may be missed out in that case.”
Candidate Mayekar, who is also a member of IDA, said the state registry had wrong addresses and contact numbers of dentists since 2013. “In 2013, Dhoble got the responsibility to manage the website and registry. He is now a candidate. How can the council give him the responsibility to maintain registry when he is contesting?” Mayekar asked. While both are members of the association, Mayekar claims that no meeting has been called by the association to resolve the issue.
Dr Mansingh Pawar, the president of the Maharashtra State Dental Council refused comment on the appointment of Dhoble to maintain the website for the council. “The returning officer is looking into the allegations,” he said. Dhoble remained unavailable for comment.