Thursday, 9 October 2014

NEW DELHI: Has the Union health ministry misled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the AIIMS CVO matter? On August 23, health secretary Lov Verma sent a detailed note to the PMO on why Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer who had uncovered several scams while posted in Haryana, had been removed from the post of Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

The note, which followed Modi's phone conversation with health minister Harsh Vardhan on the matter, adds fuel to the controversy surrounding Chaturvedi's abrupt removal because it contains apparent contradictions in the ministry's own position and is silent about a BJP Member of Parliament who had sought his dismissal.

Chaturvedi's removal in August, barely three months after the Modi government took over, drew parallels with the repeated transfers of IAS officer Ashok Khemka, who had exposed corruption in Haryana.

The move came almost two years after Chaturvedi survived an attempt to remove him soon after he had been appointed CVO in June 2012.Verma's five-page note, a copy of which is with ET, traces events back to 2009, when the Central Vigilance Commission first observed that the model of appointing a part-time CVO at AIIMS was not working very well.

Narendra Modi misled on AIIMS CVO Sanjiv Chaturvedi's removal?Narendra Modi misled on AIIMS CVO Sanjiv Chaturvedi's removal?At that time, says the note, while the ministry favoured a full-time CVO, AIIMS didn't. As things turned out, a post of deputy secretary/director was created at AIIMS.

This post went to Chaturvedi who, shortly after taking charge, was told by the then AIIMS deputy director, Vineet Chawdhry, to act as its CVO as well.

In his letter, Verma faults this decision. According to him, AIIMS' decision to assign the charge of CVO to Chaturvedi was not in accordance with the CVC guidelines.

"This long-standing anomaly has now been corrected," says the letter Verma also says that Chaturvedi had been given additional charge as CVO, AIIMS.

However, according to a ministry insider who spoke to ET on condition of anonymity, the note sent by Verma to the two principal secretaries to the PM — PK Mishra and Nripendra Mishra — and to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, tells an incomplete story.

For instance, Verma's assertion that Chaturvedi's appointment violated CVC guidelines is contradicted by the CVO of the ministry of health, Vishwas Mehta. In file notings dated October 1, 2012, Mehta writes: "AIIMS is-...not in the list of organisations which requires mandatory approval of CVC before approval of CVO."

Mehta added in file notings dated May 23, 2014: "All the statutory requirements in the creation and appointment of the post of CVO have already been completed and therefore the matter should be closed here itself."

These notings were endorsed by Verma himself. However, his letter to the PMO contradicts what the notings say. Verma also says that Chaturvedi was given additional charge as CVO over and above his other responsibilities. However, the AIIMS' office memorandum announcing his appointment says he will handle four other functions "in addition to his duties and responsibilities as CVO."

say, "Then health secretary Sh. Pradhan had given a specific commitment before the parliamentary committee on June 8, 2012 that Shri Sanjiv Chaturvedi... would be made CVO of AIIMS." Verma's note is also silent on the role played by BJP general secretary JP Nadda.

A Rajya Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, Nadda had written to both Vardhan and his predecessor Ghulam Nabi Azad, asking them to remove Chaturvedi.

In one such letter written on June 24, Nadda asked Vardhan to remove Chaturvedi as CVO and to appoint the head of AIIMS' paediatrics department, Vinod Kaul, as its new CVO.

He also said Chaturvedi should be sent back to his parent cadre and that all enquiries started by him should be put on hold.Verma refused to take any questions on Chaturvedi when ET contacted him. Chaturvedi is still at AIIMS but his main function, that of CVO, has been taken away.

Says the ministry insider, "His role is entirely defunct now." In his previous posting in Haryana's forest department, Chaturvedi had come under sustained attack from the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in the state for exposing corruption.

At AIIMS, his inquiries resulted in CBI investigations against senior hospital officials.This led to the previous move by the health ministry to transfer him — one that was scuttled after opposition from the Civil Services Board and the Parliamentary Committee for Health and Family Welfare.