A letter written by Union minister Nitin Gadkari to Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde seeking the transfer of state's medical education secretary Dr Ashwini Joshi, who has reportedly disrupted smooth functioning of the medical education department, has raised questions of conflict of interest.
In a letter to CM Shinde and chief secretary Manukumar Srivastava on March 9, Gadkari also criticised Joshi, an IAS officer, for allegedly stalling admission to nearly 1,100 seats linked to courses offered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons-affiliated.
His wife Kanchan Gadkari is on the advisory board of the Association of CPS Affiliated Institutes, which was formed recently and holds membership of approximately 100 colleges that offer CPS courses, said an official of the organisation.
Earlier, Joshi had written to the Centre highlighting “severe deficiencies” in institutes running CPS courses.
Mumbai-based CPS is an autonomous body and runs 2-year diploma and 3-year fellowship medical courses across the state.
“Kanchan Gadkari is an advisor of the association. Simply being the wife of a politician doesn't disqualify her. She has some position in her public life,” said Dr Bakul Parekh, president of the association, stressing that they seek her advice mainly on administrative matters.
“She has a huge expertise in that area,” he added.
Despite Gadkari attaching the association's letter with his March 9 communication stressing why CPS courses need to start immediately, Parekh claimed that the association did not approach him directly. He said the CPS management might have approached the minister.
“Union minister Gadkari is a prominent personality and known to be a positive person. That could be the reason,” he said. According to Parekh, the association was formed nine months ago and its members want some solution.
Admissions to nearly 1,100 CPS seats have not taken place since the medical education department has not begun counselling following Joshi's observations.
Joshi has maintained through her letters that till she doesn't get a satisfactory response from CPS explaining the alleged deficiencies, there is likely to be a status quo.
She had also issued a show-cause notice to CPS on March 14 and asked them to submit answers by March 21.
With the issue appearing to acquire a political colour, few officials are willing to speak about it openly.
State medical education minister Girish Mahajan, who is learnt to be backing Joshi's action against CPS, and Gadkari couldn't be reached for comments. Dr Parekh said not all CPS colleges are bad and the solution doesn't lie in shutting down a 110-year-old institution.
However, sources said, several members of the medical fraternity have been calling for the CPS to operate with greater transparency.