Rules violated again in choosing Director, NRHM

SRINAGAR: In a state where favouritism is generally considered a part of life, another decision by the cabinet seems to have underlined the unhealthy practice of violating rules in official appointments. By making Dr Mohan Singh the Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the government has again put a question mark on its credibility in choosing the right person for the right job.
Dr Mohan was an assistant surgeon, and later was promoted as In-charge Medical Superintendent, Dental College Jammu, and was  holding the additional charge of Director Aids Control Society.
According to medical rules, an assistant surgeon can become a Deputy Medical Superintendent once he is confirmed by the Public Service Commission (PSC). But Dr Mohan didn’t get the confirmation since his master’s degree, which he had completed from a private institute, was not recognised by the PSC.
And now, he again seems to have jumped up the ladder of hierarchy. According to guidelines, if an assistant surgeon has to become a Director, he must complete a tenure of five years and then get a confirmation from the PSC as Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Again, after five years, he has to apply for the post of deputy director, get a confirmation from the PSC and after serving as deputy for five years, he can apply for the post of Director.
“Dr Mohan has always managed such ‘smooth jumps’,” said a medical officer, “when he was made In-charge Medical Superintendent, Dental College, he was not eligible for the post. An assistant surgeon cannot straight away become a deputy, he has to get confirmation from the PSC, which Dr Mohan didn’t get since he was not an MD and the PSC didn’t recognise his masters in health care, which he had done from a private institute.”
“Again, he is not qualified for the position of NRHM Director,” the official added, “just because he is the son-in-law of a National Conference leader doesn’t mean he can just bypass the rules.”
An NRHM Director, according to guidelines, should be an experienced IAS officer – which is the norm throughout India.
But Dr Mohan does not qualify as he is an MBBS doctor with an additional degree in masters in health care from TISS (Tata Institute of Social Science), an organisation which is not recognised by the Medical Council of India. The medical rules also say that in case an IAS officer is not available, a Medical Superintendent, confirmed by the PSC, can hold the chair since the post of a Medical Superintendent is of the same cadre as that of the Director.
But Health and Medical Education Minister Choudhary Lal Singh rubbished questions regarding Dr Mohan’s eligibility. “He is eligible. There are no guidelines that a mission director has to be an IAS officer.” It must be noted that the previous Director of NRHM, Dr Yashpal Sharma, also was not an IAS officer. He was also a Deputy Medical Superintendent who was then made Officer on Special Duty to then-health minister, Sham Lal Sharma, who also gave him the additional charge of In-charge Director, NRHM.
This trend of elevating ineligible candidates, and ignoring those who are eligible according to the rules, say health officials, has thus been continuing. “The health minister has time and again given less preference to doctors who are qualified and deserve the position, and he often puts people who are in his good books at top positions,” said one such official.
There have been other examples of appointments made by health ministers in violation of guidelines. One is that of Dr Shafqat Khan, In-charge Medical Superintendent GB Pant hospital.
Dr Shafqat, who has done his MBBS from Russia, was an assistant surgeon and then was deputed as a personal doctor to then-CM Farooq Abdullah. The chair of a Medical Superintendent requires experience as Deputy Medical Superintendent for 5 years, but Dr Shafqat does not have such experience. He has worked as an OST officer – during which stint he faced allegations of corruption.
He later worked as a health officer in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), despite a government order that he should not be given any responsible position. And before joining as In-charge Medical Superintendent GB Pant, he was an immunisation officer at Pulwama.
Another example is of Dr Sandeep, an assistant surgeon at GMC Jammu who then became Registrar of Orthopaedics, and is holding the chair of Registrar Paramedical Council, despite there being doctors senior to him. Earlier, Waseem Qureshi, Registrar Academics, who also has experience of working as Medical Superintendent was holding the Paramedical Council charge.
All this has obviously meant a lot of resentment amongst doctors. “It takes us so many years to become senior doctors and meet the eligibility criteria for positions we have dreamt of. But then if a junior grabs the chair just because he is an ‘influential person’, it is both gross injustice and an insult to our hard work,” said a senior doctor.