Will mantris too be arrested?

If Fire In Govt Hospital…..

By Poonam I Kaushish

“What’s the use of coming now? He is already dead. All are dead. The Administration is hopeless, useless,” angrily shouted Pradeep Sarkar. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Day after day, month by month anguished wails pierce India’s comatose dark skies. As our netagan continue to glibly parrot trivia and get their knickers in knots. Standing testimony that the aam aadmi translates into a sterile statistic!

True, the dastardly fire at Kolkata’s multi-specialty private AMRI hospital where 90 patients choked to death while sleeping in a fire caused by inflammable material stored in the basement was heart-wrenching. But more horrifying was the Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s reaction. Not only did she cancel the hospital’s license for gross negligence but also arrested six directors for culpable homicide and negligence. Notwithstanding, patients continue in the hospital’s unaffected block sans doctors and nurses to attend them.

Importantly, given our leaders penchant for short-cuts and quick-fix solutions, what else can one expect, but this ghisa-pitta action? Spotlighting once again our polity’s cavalier and churlish attitude and approach to a crisis. Not for them the need to elucidate damage control measures, put the disaster in proper perspective and keep calm.Raising a moot point? Does Mamata not know that the State Government too has a stake in the hospital’s ownership? As Chief Minister should she too be arrested? If the fire brigade came late, were ill-equipped, without masks with only rickety manual lifts why hasn’t the Fire Chief been hauled up? Who will bear the cross for the State Administration granting license without overseeing whether the approach road to the hospital was wide and traffic-free in an emergency? Does it condone and justify the State Government’s delayed action, bad planning and mismanagement?

The buck doesn’t stop there. Scandalously, three big Government hospitals in Union Capital Delhi, AIIMS, Lok Nayak and Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospitals are among 12 others functioning without fire safety certificates, endangering the lives of thousands. Less said the better of swanky private hospitals. God forbid, in an emergency a patient would die thanks to congested roads. In Andhra’s Capital Hyderabad over 400 hospitals are fire accidents waiting to happen. Less said the better of small cities and districts.

Rats nibbling away the ears of a new born and stray dogs moving about in gynaecological wards no longer make news, for they are common occurrences in Government hospitals, not necessarily in rural areas. Worse, none is willing to learn the ABC of health and crisis management or finding lasting solutions.

Importantly, the Kolkata tragedy underscores India’s appalling state of our healthcare systems which makes us particularly vulnerable to a disease. The Government spends less than one per cent of its GDP on public health care. According to the WHO, our national average is only 45 doctors and 8.9 beds for every 100,000 patients, with the levels far lower in poorest States. Add to this a highest annual death toll due to tuberculosis, malaria, dengue and cholera.

Worse, a study done by the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership-India Working Group and the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy found the infections rate of Indian hospitals wards and intensive care units is five times more than in the rest of the world. Of which some diseases are not only difficult but also impossible to treat leading to death.

Clearly, underscoring the real filth is more administrative and political. Who will bear responsibility? Alas, gone are the days when Shastri resigned in 1956 following a train accident. Today, we are captive of double standards and skullduggeries wherein demands for resignations are dismissed by are netas as political redundancies.

Look at Mamata’s track record: As erstwhile Union Railway Minister from 2009-11 over 250 passengers lost their lives in train accidents. But no word of resignation. She conveniently dismissed all as “the drivers human error”. Ditto, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar response to farmers’ suicide in his home State Maharashtra. He attributes these to vagaries of nature, not faulty planning and giving fertile land to builders for ugly sky-scrapers.

Of course, RJD’s Laloo gave resignations an all together new meaning. Asked whether he would resign taking moral responsibility for a rail accident in 2005, his response was telling: “People have elected us to take responsibility as Ministers, not to run away from it.” Ex-Prime Minister VP Singh elevated resignation to a high political art. Effectively, converting the moral act in to an instrument for furthering personal political goals, gaining public sympathy as a selfless leader.

Resignation from office, as we know it now, is no more a suo motu high act, it is a part of the game of political expediency. Where do we go from here? It all depends on our netagan. Perhaps it is time for the Government to realize that economic reform without reforms in the social sectors can become a bane in themselves. In an open economy, as Kolkata’s disaster shows, the entire system can crumble if the social sectors are weak and fragile

Significantly, our polity needs to have respect for human life. Two, put in place efficient administrative and political machinery. Three, provide hygienic sanitary conditions (only half of the country’s garbage is cleared). Four, introduce sanitary landfills and dumping grounds along-with getting rid of 14 lakh manual scavengers to clear human and animal excreta, no matter a legislation banning this practice. Five, proficient health care system. It is now imperative for India to rethink its strategies and approaches to safeguard public health infrastructure, constitute a public health policy, establish fresh priorities, improve service delivery in public hospitals, rail and road management and establish close links between research, policy and service; with people at the centre of social development.

The Government can no longer bury its head in the sand. Conferences of Ministers, Secretaries and directives from the Centre to the States will not do. The time is for gone for the Government to play the pied piper coupled with its accompanying ki pharak painda hai attitude. Will the future generation be weighed down by our moribund and politricking leaders albatross round its neck? And aver: Achcha who mar gaya kya?—- INFA

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