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Tamil Nadu: Cosy nexus

EducationWorld February 13 | Education News EducationWorld

The rash of scandals including charging prohibited capitation fees, faking the number of minimum faculty members, and other forms of malpractices rampant in several of Tamil Nadu’s 19 government and 23 private medical colleges and one government and 26 private dental colleges, which have been hitting newspaper headlines in Chennai for the past year, have cast serious doubts over the quality of the over 4,000 allopathic doctors and 2,710 dentists churned out annually in the state.

The latest scandal to rock this south-eastern seaboard state (pop. 72 million) involves five prominent people — Dr. S. Murukesan, vice principal and associate dean of the high-profile SRM Dental College, Chennai, and Dr. R. Gunaseelan, medical director of the Rajan Dental Institute, both members of the Dental Council of India (DCI: the statutory body which regulates dental education countrywide) and the Tamil Nadu Dental Council (TNDC); T. Palani, a former MLA of the AIADMK and two others. They were arrested by the Union government-controlled Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly demanding and accepting a bribe of Rs.1 crore from the management of Adi Parasakthi Dental College and Hospital (ADCH) in Kancheepuram, in return for DCI’s permission to start postgraduate (MDS) dental courses.

According to media reports, the DCI team which inspected the college last October denied it permission to introduce MDS courses as it didn’t meet required infrastructure standards. However, when the management approached the inspection team with a bribe offer, Dr. Murukesan accepted a sum of Rs.25 lakh as advance to grant approval to the college. In the course of subsequent raids and investigations, the CBI also seized bribe money to the tune of Rs.75 lakh collected from dental colleges in the state by TNDC president Dr. Gunaseelan, son of Dr. V.K. Rajan, former vice chancellor of the Dr. M.G.R. Medical University and state government nominee to DCI. On January 19, the state government distanced itself from the brewing scam by with-drawing its nominations of Gunaseelan and Murukesan to TNDC and DCI.

The CBI investigations and arrests have clearly exposed the dental colleges-DCI corruption nexus in the state, involving people with huge political patronage. The DCI scam follows the massive corruption scandal in the Medical Council of India (MCI) involving its chairman Ketan Desai who was arrested by the CBI in April 2010, and has clearly proved that neither elections nor nominations to the DCI and TNDC are transparent. Of the 29 dental colleges in Tamil Nadu, 23 including one government college are affiliated with Tamil Nadu’s Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, and six with private deemed universities. The Tamil Nadu Government Dental College offers 35 postgraduate seats, 11 private colleges offer 420 seats and private universities 200 postgrad seats. And with pressure and inducements for admission into dental colleges continuously increasing, private college managements are prepared to pay handsomely for TNDC/DCI sanction to increase student intake in undergrad and postgrad courses.

Informed academics, doctors and senior dentists are unsurprised by the rampant corruption in private dental colleges offering undergrad and postgraduate courses in Tamil Nadu. “Most private dental colleges are run by politicians or belong to their kith and kin. They are in a position to take advantage of the huge demand for postgraduate admissions. The DCI has nominees of the state government and the affiliating university who can influence the council’s decision to grant recognition and introduce new courses. Hefty commissions which benefit the college management, regulatory bodies and state government officials change hands. Why would government officials want to kill the goose that lays golden eggs?’’ asks Dr. Usha Mohandas, a Bangalore-based paediatric dental practitioner and vice chairperson of the Women’s Dental Council of the Indian Dental Association. Significantly, Mohandas is also president of the Forum Against Corruption in Dental Education.

The consequences of corruption and poor-quality education are already being felt in the state. Last year, 60 percent of dental students failed their first-year undergrad exams and a growing number of paper-qualified dentists are facing unemployment. Dental and medical practitioners are unanimous that the Central and state governments have done huge damage to medical and dental education through excessive restrictions and rigged elections in DCI and MCI. “A strict moratorium on starting new colleges, automating the regulatory framework and making it accountable, and enforcing strict norms for DCI elections can go a long way in cleansing the Augean stables of dental education,” says Dr. Mohandas.

But with college managements, TNDC and DCI, and state government officials benefitting from the status quo, why should they clean the stables?

Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)

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