KOZHIKODE: The 40th anniversary of a historic event in the socio-political and health history of Kerala has gone unnoticed. It was on March 23, 40 years ago, a group of rebellious youth, under the banner of Janakeeya Samskarika Vedi along with its parent Naxalite party, CRC-CPI-ML, conducted a public trial of corrupt doctors of Kozhikode Medical College Hospital (KMCH). The event that shed no blood resulted in Naxalites winning massive support and putting an end to the rampant corruption among doctors.
Vedi state committee members Sethu and A Soman were in charge of the operation which was meticulously planned and executed with the support of Naxalite leaders including Grow Vasu.
"The corruption at KMCH was such that surgeries were done only after paying bribes," reminisces Sethu, who is a septuagenarian now.
Then Naxalite leader and an accused in the case, Venu Poovattuparamba says that there was an instance of a poor patient selling her single source of income-milch goat-to pay the bribe and the doctor refusing it on the ground that "He cannot buy even buy dog biscuits with that meager amount".
"I was deputed by party leaders K. Venu and Grow Vasu to prepare a background report on the situation. It took three months to collect information from KMCH. Junior doctors C P Sreedharan, Abdul Aziz and Brahmaputhran leaked us valuable tips (The first two were suspended and arrested later) and we prepared a report exposing 11 doctors as the most corrupt. Some 2,000 copies of the report were distributed in the hospital area and doctors were on their toes," elaborated Sethu.
"No patient was ready to give inputs. But medical students helped a lot. They leaked information from the case sheets and we visited the houses of patients and gathered information," added Venu.
Among the identified, the most notorious, Prof K M George (Orthopedics) was selected for the public trial.
On the day, squad members caught hold of George once he got out of his car from the parking lot, which is situated on the backside of the present casualty block. Grow Vasu was supervising the action and was prepared to face an attack in case of police intervention.
George was garlanded with sandals. An "I am corrupt" board was pasted on his chest and he was brought out of the hospital campus to the spot where the present park circle is situated. Slogans were raised and soon more than 150 people gathered. Soman read the chargesheet and asked the crowd to ask questions which they did on their own.
"The public ire towards the corrupt was intense. A patient, who was forcibly discharged by George for not paying the bribe, shouted that he should be killed," recalled Venu.
Later, the activists took out a rally to Kozhikode city but were brutally lathicharged by police at Kovoor. Ayyappan, Venu Poovattuparamba, Chandran Master, Mammu, Odesa Sathyan (he didn't take part in the trial) among others, suffered serious injuries and 30, including A Soman, were arrested.
Vedi members Ramesh Chalappuram, Pradeep Mananthawady, Kochu Soman, Dasan among others actively participated in the public trial.
The incident received nationwide attention and largely changed the public perception towards Naxalites. All corrupt doctors were transferred. All involved in the case were later set free by the court. There was massive support for the programme and even then Supreme Court Chief Justice, Y.V. Chandrachud, lauded it. Eight newspapers wrote editorials on it and reporters of national dailies came down to Kozhikode to cover the subsequent events.
'It inculcated a value system'
Retired Sulthan Bathery Taluk hospital superintendent, Dr E P Mohanan says the public trial caused the end of corruption among doctors at KMCH then. "Further, it firmly established a value system among the then medical students," said Mohanan, who was a student at KMCH in 1981.
Looking back after 40 years, both Sethu and Venu feel Dr S K Ramachandran could have been avoided from the list of the corrupt. According to Venu, Ramachandran was the person who had no consideration for patients even while taking bribe.
Who were the 11 corrupt doctors
K M George, Sreenivasan, Moideenkutty, Mohan Kumar, Thyagarajan, V J Nair, K P Rajagopal, S K Ramachandran, Mukherji, Vijayalakshmi Mukherji and radiologist Rathnakumari.
"The event was organised by Naxalites by fielding Vedi activists in front. I was the captain and Chandran Master and Ramanandan vice-captains. A Soman was made the leader of the operation as he was having a swing position on the action. Ramdas and Krishnan were deputed to 'seize' of Dr George".