Government ignores own probe report and High Court strictures

Doctors earn from illnesses while bureaucrats defend governmental chicanery. And doctors who become government bureaucrats will defend what may prove disastrous to patients. This is why the BJP governments in the Centre and in Maharashtra are allowing a 107-year-old private institution in Mumbai to confer post-graduate medical diplomas despite being a charitable trust indicted by the Bombay high court last year for being nothing more than a “teaching shop” whose dubious qualifications were not needed.

A question raised in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly at Nagpur in 2018, as to why action was taken only against 20 doctors who had procured fake postgraduate medical diplomas from the CPS after paying few lakhs of rupees as bribes while others’ licences to practice medicine were not suspended went unanswered by the chief minister and state health minister.

A report prepared by Maharashtra’s department of medical education and research (DMER) joint director, Dr Prakash T Wakode, an ENT surgeon, had reportedly indicted the CPS for its irregular legal status and even recommended that only NEET-qualified doctors should be admitted. But when quizzed, Wakode and Dr Tatyarao Lahane, DMER director, cleverly said the CPS was an autonomous institute which did not come under the state’s purview.

This is bizarre because the CPS is located in Maharashtra and its qualifications are recognised by the Maharashtra Medical Council which creates an absurd situation. The MMC president refused to reply to any query on these shenanigans which confirms something is rotten in postgraduate medical education.

Former J J Dean and DMER director Dr Lahane has the unique distinction of performing over 100,000 cataract surgeries—more than any other Indian doctor, which perhaps got him a Padmashree, although he is very cagey about how the CPS confers diplomas in Mumbai. Senior doctors in Delhi claim the Central government will now allow the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPS) to conduct specialised diploma exams for all MBBS graduates throughout India.

This will bring the CPS on par with the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences and the National Board of Examinations which was set up by the Congress government in 1975 under the union ministry of health and family welfare. This makes a mockery of the Wakode report and the strictures passed by the Bombay high court.

By ignoring the severe strictures passed by Justice SC Dharmadikari and Bharati Nangre in 2018, both the central and Maharashtra governments are disrespecting the court and playing with the lives of the people because those having CPS qualifications are not on par with doctors holding the MD, MS, M Ch, or the equivalent DNB qualification which is what the high court observed. Those who have CPS diplomas cannot teach in medical colleges unless they also have an MD or MS.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons at Parel in Mumbai is neither a university nor a charitable trust although the charity commissioner registered it as a public charitable trust in 1965. The acting charity commissioner, Shyna Patil, was unable to reply to the questions posed by this newspaper as she had recently taken charge.

Coupled with the removal of health care from the purview of the Consumer Protect Act, 1986, the BJP governments in Delhi and Mumbai have succumbed to powerful lobbies to allow 1.2 billion Indians to be treated as guinea pigs by doctors with dubious specialist tags given by private institutions to fill 82 per cent vacancies for specialists in India.

At the core of the scam is the fact that 69,800 MBBS graduates who are churned out by 529 medical colleges every year are desperate for a postgraduate diploma or degree which will convert them into anaesthetists, paediatricians, gynaecologists or radiologists needed before surgery. Those unable to secure MD or MS seats among the 29,800 postgraduate seats in the mainstream medical colleges in India are desperate to get a specialist diploma which is not equal to an MD or MS degree. This, the gullible patients do not understand.

At a conservative estimate, the CPS earns several crores each year for admitting two batches of MBBS graduates twice every year. Moreover, a few doctors who have failed to clear their diplomas after several attempts have alleged they have received phone calls asking them to fork out money if they wish to pass their exams. Like Dr Jaibhave from Beed who has complained to the CBI about allegedly being asked for bribes.

The principal secretary to the department of health, Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, an MBBS graduate who is an IAS officer, has claimed the CPS is doing “social service” although it charges tidy sums for enrolment of MBBS graduates on a merit list devised by itself which is outside the purview of the mainstream medical colleges. “Even Harvard Medical School will not qualify for the stringent standards laid down by the (now defunct) Medical Council of India. What is wrong with the CPS conferring its diplomas?” he defended the institute.

Despite being registered as a charitable trust, the CPS neither treats patients free-of-cost nor does it run a charitable hospital or dispense medicines free-of-cost which Dr Mukherjee is unable to rebut. It conducts lectures at Parel but does not admit patients but has tie-ups with other hospitals to which its aspiring specialists are sent. Dr Jaibhave from Beed district has alleged the marks during orals are written in pencil and then erased and marks in pen are written after some candidates allegedly get phone calls demanding money for them to be passed.

The British set up the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPS) in 1912 which conferred its degrees under the Indian Medical Degrees Act, 1912 but never came under the purview of the University Grants Commission Act, 1950 and so was never a university which alone can confer medical degrees and diplomas.

The writer holds a PhD in Media Law. He is a journalist-cum- lawyer of the Bombay High Court.

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