Go on leave or face suspension: Health ministry tells top bureaucrat

Jagdish Prasad, who was sent on leave on Jan 17, turned up to work on Tuesday

A little over a month after he was sent "on a 15-day earned leave", Dr Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services, Union ministry of health and family welfare, made news again when a suspension order against him was leaked to media persons. 

The order, released by the vigilance division of the ministry on February 20, stated that the top official who heads the technical wing of the ministry and was in-charge of the implementation of the Centre's various health programmes, has been suspended with immediate effect. The order said that the reason for his suspension is to ensure that "disciplinary proceedings for major penalty" against him are conducted in an "impartial manner".

Dr Jagdish Prasad | Youtube Dr Jagdish Prasad | Youtube

However, after the letter reached media persons, a ministry spokesperson said that the order has "not been served" and that Prasad continues to be "on leave". 

Prasad was sent on leave for 15 days on January 17 in light of an inquiry initiated against him. The leave was being extended every few days. On Tuesday morning, however, Prasad turned up to work. 

Sources in the ministry said that when Prasad insisted on joining office on Tuesday—despite being asked to stay on leave—a suspension order was shown to him. Prasad was asked to choose between going back on leave, or face suspension. 

Subsequently, in a written response, Prasad asked for his joining report to be withdrawn, and for his leave to be extended for "personal work" until April 30. His plea was accepted, and the suspension order, as it turned out, was not issued.

A cardio-thoracic surgeon, Prasad has served as the chief cardiac surgeon at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, the medical superintendent at the hospital and at the Vardhaman Mahavir medical college, as well as the principal of the college, before taking over as the DGHS in December 2011. 

In 2009, a vigilance inquiry was initiated against Prasad for mismanagement and corruption, and the ministry had removed him from the post of the medical superintendent of the Safdarjung Hospital and principal of the medical college. However, he continued to serve as the additional director general in the ministry, and was subsequently cleared of all charges against him.

During his tenure in the ministry, Prasad had been a controversial figure. He had challenged the government's order that administrative posts could not be held by professionals from Central Health Services after the age of 62 years. Prasad, who would have to give up the post because of the order, managed to get a stay on his exit from the Central Administrative Tribunal, and continued as DGHS. 

Last year, at a public event, Prasad also alleged that his team members were often sidelined by the ministry's bureaucrats, especially when it came to representing the country at international conferences.