At the height of a strike spearheaded by the DMK labour union at the renowned Christian Medical College (CMC) Hospital in Vellore during 1974-75, then CM M Karunanidhi had “privately” threatened to close down the hospital, a US diplomat in Chennai claimed in a cable sent to the US Embassy then. The diplomat also saw a Tamil-Malayalee linguistic twist to the issue and described Karunanidhi’s actions as “anti-Christian”.
The strike was triggered by the CMC’s disciplinary action against a doctor and four staff, who fudged medical entrance exam results after receiving bribes. The doctor’s brother, heading the hospital’s DMK labour union, led a violent strike leading to the suspension of 18 staff. Later, the hospital sacked 15 employees.
In a cable titled ‘Deteriorating Situation at Vellore Medical College and Hospital’ dated March 13, 1975, the diplomat said Karunanidhi had offered an “unsolicited settlement proposal” to reinstate the sacked workers. When the management refused to accept it, “the Chief Minister privately threatened to close down the hospital,” and tried to pressure the management into capitulation or closure.
The cable is part of the WikiLeaks’ ‘Kissinger Era’ communications released this week. The CMC strike had kindled the diplomat’s interest as the institution was founded by an American missionary and US nationals were working at the hospital. The cable said an impartial Vellore Collector was transferred and the government asked the CMC to pay Rs 5.85 lakh for police protection provided to it.