Election wait for Indian medicine panel

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The Centre appears set to renege on its commitment to the Supreme Court that it would organise elections to a council that regulates traditional medicine whose members have clung to their positions for years, defying rules.

At least 40 of the 48 elected members to the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) have held their positions for more than the scheduled period of five years. Among them, 17 have been members for 15 years or longer, sources said.

The CCIM, set up 40 years ago by the Union health ministry, regulates education in colleges offering degrees in Ayurveda (BAMS), Unani (BUMS), and Siddha (BSMS), which under Indian law are in some ways equivalent to MBBS degrees in modern medicine. The CCIM members have to
inspect colleges of traditional medicine to ensure that they maintain the required faculty strength and hospital infrastructure.

The number of traditional medicine colleges in India has grown from about 150 in 1990 to more than 250 last year with private colleges accounting for most of the growth over the past decade, said a former assistant registrar of CCIM.

Senior administrators in some of these colleges say they have privately complained among themselves about what they describe as “harassment” and “demands” by some members of the CCIM during the college inspections.

“Some of the members appeared more interested in making demands than in carrying out any inspections,” said Karibasavaraj Basavaraj Nagur, a professor of traditional medicine at the Rural Ayurvedic College and Hospital in Bijapur, Karnataka.

Nagur filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 2009 pleading that the government should organise elections as well as ask CCIM members who have held their positions for more than five years to resign.

“We wanted new people. Some of the CCIM members appeared to be misusing their powers,” Nagur told The Telegraph. All registered practitioners of traditional medicine make up the voters who elect the CCIM members.

When the writ petition came up on July 30, 2010, the counsel for the CCIM and the Centre told the Supreme Court that they would hold the elections within six months, a period that ends on January 31, 2011.

A senior official in the department of Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha told The Telegraph that state governments also have a role in organising the elections to the CCIM but declined to elaborate yesterday what specific roles the Centre and the states would have in the elections.

“The CCIM members have taken advantage of ambiguity in the rules which say that a member may hold office for five years or until a successor is elected,” said Bharat Bhushan, a qualified practitioner of traditional medicine and former assistant registrar of the CCIM.

“Without an election, how can a successor be elected unless a member resigns?” Bhushan asked.

Reported by
New Delhi, Jan. 30

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