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Aam Aadmi In ICU: POLITY RUNS OUT OF BALM, By Poonam I Kaushish, 25 Oct, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 25 October 2016

Aam Aadmi In ICU


By Poonam I Kaushish


Life in India is cheap, real cheap. With people falling like nine pins due to gross negligence, deadly diseases topped by Government apathy. Thanks to a Sarkar which doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the aam aadmi! Wherein, a death is dismissed as, Achcha woh mar gaya, to kya?


How else should one react to 24 patients who were charred to death and an entire floor burnt down in a fire mishap at the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospitals in Bhubaneswar Monday last. Or it took over 100 deaths of dengue and 380 cases of chikengunya for the Delhi Government to sit-up and take note that the Capital was in the throes of a deadly disease. And now news of bird flu being back and infecting humans.


Our netas reaction? While Odisha Chief Minister Patnaik went through the boring dance of sorrow routine offering hollow platitudes, Delhi’s Health Minister stated, “There is no cause for panic. The situation is totally under control.” Really? You could have fooled me?


Importantly, given our leaders penchant for short-cuts and quick-fix solutions, what else can one expect, but these ghisa-pitta reactions? Spotlighting, once again their cavalier and churlish attitude and approach to a crisis. This begs a question: Patnaik has been running the Government for 16 years, why has he not provided basic facilities in his State?


Notwithstanding the SUM hospital denying any lapses, the fact is that its last fire safety audit was done in 2014, thereby putting a question mark on how it was allowed to operate without the statutory fire safety certificate? More. According to the State’s Medical Education Director only three corporate hospitals out of over 500 in the State have fire safety certificates.


Coming as it does barely five years after the Kolkata AMRI Hospital blaze in 2011 which claimed 89 lives, the moot point again is: Who allowed SUM to function without the mandatory fire clearances for three years? Who will bear the cross for the State Administration? That it epitomizes the death of civic and health reforms plagued by a heartless attitude, lethargy, corruption and bereft of cure and consolation is old hat. 


The buck doesn’t stop there. The situation is no different pan-India with several hospitals lacking the infrastructure to manage a breakout of a blaze. 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.


True, Indian hospitals and health officials are diseased and have always been synonymous with inefficiency and insensitivity. Add to this the heartless beast called babudom, a self-serving lot, devoid of sympathy and kindness which turns servile only for money and power.


Rats nibbling away the ears of a new born and stray dogs moving about in gynecological 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.


Remember, the heart-rending story of Dana Majhi, who walked 10 km carrying his wife's dead body last month simply because his cries for an ambulance were brazenly dismissed by officials who instead like vultures they reveled in his plight. Shockingly, in many places, even dead cattle get the dignity of being transported for burial.


Highlighting that nothing has changed in Mera Bharat Mahan. Of a system which continues to deny people the right to live and die in dignity. Day after day, month by month anguished wails pierce India’s comatose dark skies. Standing testimony that the aam aadmi translates into a sterile statistic!


Think, the way our system functions, it is a no brainer that are powers-that-be connive to give each other clean chits and put the blame for on a minion’s shoulder. Through the eyes of the Indian ‘system’, the fault is always with the ‘other’, and the officials, being paragons of virtue that they are, always answer the call of duty, without favour, greed or any expectation.


Undoubtedly, India is in the throes of an all-round crisis: Social, environmental and moral degradation, Look at our 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 Global Burden of Diseases 2015, heart attacks, lung obstruction and strokes are the three top killers, accounting for over one-third of deaths. Coupled with diabetes and chronic kidney diseases, they total five non-communicable diseases which are among the top ten causes of death.


Communicable diseases like bronchitis and pneumonia, diarrhea and TB (which afflicts the poor and malnourished) they account for 60% of the 10.3 million deaths in India every year. Diabetes as a cause of death has grown at a chilling 35% between 2005 and 2015, chronic kidney disease by 21% and heart attacks by 17% even as communicable disease deaths have dropped by 20 to 30%

A National Sample Survey Organisation study of village infrastructure in 2003 found that 54 per cent of villages were more than five km away from the nearest Primary Health Centre and 27 per cent were more than 10 km away. Only 10 per cent had a dispensary and only 20 per cent had a private clinic or a doctor.

So, even as we delude ourselves by arguing 'Mera Bharat Badal Raha Hai'. The bird flu alarm, chikengunya alongside the SUM fire demonstrates are inability to manage a crisis, dictated by a ki farak painda hai attitude. Thereby, underscoring that the real filth is more administrative and political.

Sadly, we continue to be stuck in a hell-age where the aam aadmi dies unsung of garibi, starvation and malnourishment while our society's conscience has been numbed by apathy and selfishness. See how a pedestrian was crushed by a speeding car driven by a drunken youth with none stopping to take him to hospital in Delhi.


Undeniably, this apathy and insensitivity has become symptomatic of our society at large. In a country of 1.3 billion, ironically, each person in distress almost always finds himself alone, proving that our collective soul is in gradual demise and that the societal bonds have snapped irreparably.


Today, we face an extremely serious situation. We are at a stage where another crisis threatens. What next? Time our polity has respect for human life and improves service delivery in public services with people at the centre of social development. Time to safeguard public health infrastructure, constitute a public health policy, establish fresh priorities, elucidate damage control measures and keep calm.


With India’s public health is in the ICU, our rulers and Government need to get its act together. To foresee is to govern. No longer will cut throat projections and assertions of “All is well’ suffice. They need to follow a ‘womb to tomb’ policy of keeping citizens healthy. Governance cannot be infected! Will they apply balm? ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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