Wednesday, April 02, 2014

ICMR: Undue Pecuniary Advantage

According to the WHO, more than 2.3 million children below five years of age die in India annually. Of these, about 334,000 die from diarrhoea-related diseases.

If there is one organization that is responsible for the country's abysmal Infant Mortality Rates (IMR) it must be the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It calls itself one of the oldest medical research organizations in the world. What has ICMR been doing all these years?

Like most other government research agencies in India, ICMR too has a web-page with a long list of achievements, much of which does not amount to much when it comes to brass-tacks.  However, having worked closely with the organization during 1998-2009, I knew for sure that they did have a large Japanese-funded project at NICED-Kolkata, specially for controlling diarrheal diseases.

The main cast of this project were Dr. Takeda of the International Medical Centre of Japan, his old friend, Dr. N.K. Ganguly of ICMR and Dr. S.K. Bhattacharya of NICED. The project had moved from 'technical cooperation' to a major grant-aid project.

Now it turns out that most of these senior S&T administrators were also using their position for "undue pecuniary advantage". According to a CBI charge-sheet filed against a number of senior ICMR officers including Ganguly and Bhattacharya, they had been using their position to help themselves with real estate worth Rs. 135 million. In June 2013, the Supreme Court granted Ganguly some interim relief, and spared him from being jailed.

What are the actual facts of the case? What does this say about S&T research in India? What happened to the original objective of creating an anti-cholera/diarrhea vaccines?

It is rather ironical that in the midst of all this ICMR continues to set up newer institutions all over the place. Once of them is actually named Desert Medicine Research Center.

I guess they deserted medical research long-long ago.

Update (23 Nov., 2015)
According to a recent news report in the New Indian Express , the Supreme Court has "quashed criminal proceedings against former Director and others in an alleged corruption case on the ground that CBI had not taken prior sanction of the competent authority to prosecute them".
While highlighting CBI's technical lapse, the report is unclear on what actually transpired. Was there a real estate scam worth ₹ 135 million?
Wonder where this case stand on the Indian Scale of Scams and Scandals -  the ISRO Spy Case, the Robert Vadra land deals, the Adarsh Society Housing Scam (Mumbai), or the Commonwealth Games Scam ? Who knows?







* Timelines --

* ICMR Achievements --

* CAG Report --


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