RIMS Controversy

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The recent advertisement calling for candidacy to the important post of Director of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, RIMS, is once again poised to kick up an unseemly controversy. For reasons that are flimsy at best, the age of superannuation of the Director`™s post has been lowered to 62 years, professedly `as per existing RR`, without any prior notice, putting many senior professors of this prestigious medical institute and health service provider out of the competition unceremoniously. The superannuation age had earlier been raised to 65 years from 62 years by the 42nd meeting of the Executive Council of the RIMS held on August 5, 2011, at the Nirman Bhavan, New Delhi. This was in keeping with similar raises in the superannuation age for the Directors of AIIMS, PGIMER Chandigarh, NEGRIHMS Shillong and JIMPER, thus bringing the norms of the RIMS on the matter at a par with other medical institutes under the administrative control of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. This decision of 2011 was ratified and confirmed in the next sitting of the RIMS Executive Council a year later on August 22, 2012. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had also in a notification dated May 3, 2012, clearly stated its approval that the term of office of the Director of the RIMS shall be `five years or till the incumbent attains the age of 65, whichever is earlier`. It is despite all these developments over a span of nearly four years that the advertisement for the RIMS Director`™s post released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on June 24, 2015, without bothering to extend any credible explanation, reverted the superannuation age to the previous 62 years.

Clearly this rather unusual decision calls for an explanation by the ministry`™s concerned authorities. The vaguely implied reason in its advertisement is, though the superannuation age had been raised to 65 years, no recruitment rules, RR, for this change in age ceiling had been framed yet, therefore the resort to the earlier ceiling of 62 years for which an RR does exist. If this indeed is the explanation for the age lowering, it must be said the logic is not tenable. The decision to raise the age ceiling was taken in August 2011, therefore there can be no excuse that a new RR had not been framed for the post as yet. In any case, framing one should hardly have been of any difficulty and could have been achieved in a matter of a week or two. This is especially so in consideration of the fact that the Director`™s posts of several other matching medical institutes in the country under the same ministry, including the AIIMS and NEGRIHMS had also been given such a raise of superannuation age, and RRs for the new 65 year age ceiling for these other institutes would be available for the RIMS to adopt or else model its own RR on.

In the name of fair play, and so as to dispel all doubts and suspicions that there are vested interests trying to take undue advantage, the ministry must put the matter on hold for the time being by withdrawing its advertisement of June 24. A new advertisement can be released after the issue has been put to rest conclusively and to the satisfaction of all parties and stakeholders. As it is, the RIMS has been in the throes of several image battering traumatic experiences in the wake of several unsavoury controversies descending on it in the last few years. Surely the health ministry would not like to add one more distressful episode to the list of the RIMS`™ already overflowing cup of woes. If it does push ahead with the unexplained lowered superannuation age in the recruitment of the next Director of the RIMS, in all likelihood the prestigious institute would be dragged into yet another wasteful and image eroding court battle. Our suggestion to the ministry therefore is for it to either explain its seeming arbitrary decision convincingly to the public, or else if it is unable to do this, delay the appointment a little until this emerging potential controversy is defused. This will save the RIMS another nasty blow to its reputation.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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