Representational image |
File photo of male medical ward at Dr. Prabhakar Kore Charitable Hospital, affiliated with Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College | Representational image |
Text Size:

The posts in Directorate General of Health Services are responsible for overseeing eradication of diseases and working of premier hospitals in Delhi

New Delhi: The Modi government has done little to address vital staff shortage in an apex medical body tasked with implementing some of the country’s largest health programmes.

At least six crucial top positions are lying vacant in the Directorate General of Health Services, the technical wing of the health ministry responsible for implementing various programmes to control malaria, Japanese encephalitis, tuberculosis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer, among others.

The posts require administrative officers but some of them have not been filled for as long as two years.

The positions lying idle are that of two special director generals (DGs) and four additional director generals (ADGs). They are usually filled by doctors from the Central Health Services (CHS) who join the cadre after passing a qualifying examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The officials are also responsible for overseeing the implementation of policies, research and development and imparting education in the field of drugs and medical devices. They further supervise the work done by the country’s drug watchdog, the Drug Controller General of India.

The vacant positions also oversee the working of the central government’s three top hospitals — Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College — apart from supervising the functioning of All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.


Such has been the staff shortage in the directorate that the post of DGHS, its top officer, is being held by Dr S. Venkatesh, who was promoted from the deputy director-general rank, three notches below the DGHS, in June 2018.

A government official, however, told ThePrint that it is now stepping up efforts to fill the vacancies. “To fill up the vacancies in DGHS offices is our top priority and we are expecting the positions to be filled up very soon,” Preeti Sudan, health secretary, told ThePrint. “We have been looking to fill up these positions by creating positions for others (who have been superannuated).”

Also read: Crippled by shortage of doctors, government wants qualified nurses to prescribe drugs

Limited role 

In 2016, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the enhancement of superannuation age of government doctors to 65 years, other than those of the CHS.

For the CHS doctors of the non-teaching specialist category, public health specialist category and GDMO sub-cadres, the government decided to place those who have attained the age of 62 in non-administrative positions, virtually stripping them of powers to implement decisions.

Since then, several officers after attaining the age of 62 have been moved from administrative positions to advisory roles. These officers earlier held the administrative positions of special DG, deputy DG and additional DG.

The positions they vacated have not been filled.

For instance, in September 2016, the health ministry posted Dr N.S. Dharamshaktu, who was then special DG, as principal adviser to head the implementation programme for vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya and kala azar.

His powers, however, are limited, unlike administrative powers. A health ministry source said the new posts are honorarium ones where officials can only advise but cannot implement decisions. They also lose their financial powers.

This April, another special DG, B.D. Athani, who helmed critical programmes, including the national programme for the control of blindness, deafness and disability issues, was made a principal consultant.

While the ministry started converting administrative posts into non-administrative ones, it did not notify them and has not really defined their roles.

“The salaries to these officers are given from the same fund as before,” said a senior bureaucrat from the health ministry. “The purpose of increasing the age for superannuation of medical faculty is totally damaged as the work is stuck between the advisers who don’t have any power to implement their own orders.”

Also read: Months after Modicare launch, 74% of specialist doctor posts found vacant in rural India

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

1 Comment Share Your Views


  1. One aspect of maximum governance is to ensure that important posts do not lie vacant for so long. Successors should be chosen in good time.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here