It took a member of his own Cabinet to do it, but Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has finally broken out of his shell. Yadav Junior has forced senior minister Vinod Kumar Singh alias Pandit Singh to resign over charges of kidnapping a chief medical officer (CMO) in Gonda and beating him up badly.
Vinod Singh had allegedly picked up CMO Dr S P Singh from his official residence in Gonda late on October 9 and beat him up for refusing to appoint the minister’s favoured candidates as contractual doctors. Dr Singh managed to reach Lucknow; the incident got widespread publicity, and the doctor refused to resume his duty in Gonda.
The CM has ordered removal of all key officers from Gonda including the district magistrate, superintendent of police, chief development officer and CMO Singh who had declined to continue their job in Gonda district after being threatened by Vinod Singh. The divisional commissioner of Lucknow, Sanjiv Mittal, has been asked to probe into the incident and submit report to the government within a week.All seems well now, for minister Singh has quit and Dr Singh is back on duty. Akhilesh critics, however, scoff at the events. No FIR has been registered against the minister yet, they say, adding that no disciplinary action has been initiated against the tainted minister either. All this despite senior Samajwadi Party leader and Rajya Sabha member Mohan Singh demanding criminal action against Pandit Singh. Another senior SP leader, Ram Gopal Yadav, is unhappy over the delay over dismissal of the minister and the government’s reluctance in initiating criminal action. It appears the Akhilesh government is deeply embarrassed by the episode. The government tried to feign ignorance about the incident as it unfolded; this may also be why no FIR has been registered yet.
On the other hand, a campaign of slander against the CMO seems to be underway now. “We know how honest the CMO is,” says Health Minister Ahmad Hasan. Senior SP leader and Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal says, “Since the CMO has not given any written complaint to the police where is the need of action against the minister, who has resigned on moral grounds?”
Vinod Singh blames his political rivals for what he calls “baseless media reports”. Pandit himself faces half-a-dozen criminal cases; CMOs in Gonda are a frightened lot who want “government protection”.
That the incident has rattled the Akhilesh government was visible at the birth anniversary celebration of socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia. “Ministers, MLAs or the party leaders and the workers should behave properly. If they don’t, it would tarnish the image of the party and the government,” party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, his brother and powerful minister Shivpal Yadav echoing the concern.
The Gonda incident may have prodded Akhilesh to act, but it has also highlighted the CM’s loose grip on his ministers and how the CMOs in the state remain a soft target. The agony of the medical administrators is not coming to an end despite their serial killings and the CBI investigations.
In the last five years, the medical and health department of the state has been flooded with funds from the UP government, Central government and international health agencies in the name of disease control and upgradation of hospitals at the district level. This has enriched the treasuries of the CMO in each and every district of the state inviting medial and drug mafia.