No Principles over Principal

The government of Jammu and Kashmir has a tradition of subservience to various powers ever since the first such dispensation took control of the state in 1947. This has assumed alarming proportions and often led to laughable results. Recent Kashmir history is replete with baffling decisions taken to satisfy the interests of regions, religions, and ethnicities.

Every government department in J&K has a standard operating procedure pertaining to appointments, promotions, and demotions. The rule book is often adhered to, but is bent at times, in the ‘interest of administration,’ or to ‘satisfy’ public demand. Rarely, appointments and promotions are also made on the basis of the subject’s ‘proximity’ to political authority, in which case rules are thrown out of the window.

The latest farce playing out on this front is over the appointment of the Principal of the Government Medical College in Srinagar.

The debate raging in government circles is whether to appoint one Professor of Paediatrics or another, both of whom have almost equal teaching experience. Where is the problem?

Well, one of the Professors has been a successful practitioner, a respected colleague, a respected teacher, and a true gentleman to all his peers and patients, one who has earned his spurs through sheer hard work and dedication. He remains, to this day, admired by many, and a member of various selection boards, examination committees, and national and international scientific committees. He has taught and guided scores of under-graduates and post-graduates, many of whom still hold him in high esteem. He lives a peaceful life, in a corner of the city, without throwing parties for the rich and the famous, and spends his time with his family rather than in the endless corridors of government offices to pay respects to bureaucrats and politicians. He has steadfastly remained out of controversy. At present, he is also the Head of Department of Paediatrics, and as per the Medical Council of India rules, 1998, he is to be given preference for the appointment of Principal over any other candidates.

The other Professor, about whom a lot has been written over the past few years, has been a successful doctor, a teacher and an examiner. He also happened to be the Medical Superintendent of the Children’s Hospital, during a turbulent phase in its short history, when the number of infants and children who died at the hospital sky-rocketed. It was 2012, and, every Kashmiri, from the taxi-driver to the doctor, was baying for his blood. Someone was responsible, and most thought it was him. An independent, one-man committee, set-up by the same government that rules today, found him guilty, and singularly responsible for the administrative laxity leading to the deaths. Civil society was up in arms, and a lawsuit quickly followed. A few post-graduate doctors went on national TV, claiming that the said Professor had asked for money to pass them in post-graduate exams (as reported by a noted English language journalist). The government suspended him, stopped short of terminating his services, and attached him to the Secretariat. Anyone with a trace of honesty and self-pride, facing such public humiliation, would have probably resigned in protest and gone his own way. After all, his experience and knowledge could have fetched him a fortune in any other college of India, or even abroad. Probably he did not have the courage to do so. Instead, he found his way back to courts, perhaps muscled his way into getting a ‘report’ made by a high-ranking government official, which basically was a ‘cut-and-paste’ job of his own words (as reported by a prominent English daily), and is now knocking at the doors of the GMC in Srinagar to let him back in. On the way, he has managed to get a few of his so-called friends to write letters about his own achievements, and how his ‘friends and colleagues’ ‘want’ him to be the Principal, as though this was a Union election.

The Principal’s post at GMC Srinagar has been held by many great luminaries of Kashmir’s medical fraternity in the past. The College has produced over 5,000 doctors in the last 55 years of its existence, and thousands of them have proven themselves throughout the globe, as was evidenced in the Golden Jubilee celebrations of 2011. Even in the worst periods of the last 25 years, GMC doctors have stood by the people of Kashmir. The GMC has a great history to guide its future. It will be sad if the appointment of someone to lead this great institution is subject to cronyism and favouritism, and not the result of genuine ability and eligibility.

Given a choice to appoint a driver for your car, would you choose someone with a history of drunken and rash driving? How then can we even contemplate handing over the care and guidance of the next generation of Kashmiri doctors to a person who has brought disrepute to the very institution he wishes to lead?

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