The Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) has written to the Medical Education and Drugs Department to form a selection committee of experts to choose from among seven candidates, who applied for the post of the director at the Haffkine Institute, following an advertisement in July this year.
The post for director is under a controversy after trade union Shramik Utkarsh Sabha and Haffkine Institute Officers’ Association filed a public interest litigation in Bombay High Court. “We have asked the department to form a scrutiny committee to shortlist candidates, and a selection committee to appoint one candidate,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, the director at DMER.
Until the last director’s appointment, the selection process was conducted by the medical education department. This is the first time that the DMER has undertaken the process. “This is the third advertisement by us but so far, we have been unable to make any appointments,” said Shingare, adding that after the last advertisement in 2016, 50 per cent applicants were not eligible. Since 2012, the full-time post for a director in Haffkine has remained vacant.
The DMER has recommended that a selection committee can have the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s medical education director, the director of the National Institute of Research In Reproductive Health, and the director of the National Institute of Virology, to finalise a candidate. “These are all third parties, there will be no vested interest,” an official from the medical education department said. The proposal remains with the medical education minister Girish Mahajan. The next hearing for the PIL is scheduled in December. According to the PIL, the eligibility criteria for the director’s post were modified in a case of conflict of interest to suit a candidate. The previous service entry rules for the director mandated 15 original research papers and doctoral degree in one of the fields — microbiology, parasitology, pathology, bacteriology, entomology, pharmacology and biochemistry. Another criteria required 15 years of experience in a research institute in organising and guiding research.
After Dr Nishigandha Naik took additional charge as director in April 2017, she proposed to amend rules through the governing council to reduce 15 research journals to 10, and from 15 years of experience to 10 years. In addition, ‘applied biology’ was introduced as a specialisation for eligibility, apart from seven specialisations already listed. The petition alleges these amendments were made to make Naik, also the daughter of Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, eligible for the director’s post.
The Shramik Utkarsh Sabha has claimed that Rs 17 lakh has already been spent by the Maharashtra government on three advertisements but no appointment was made by the medical education and drugs department despite having several eligible candidates.
Naik had refused to comment on the matter stating that it was sub-judice.