Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Greased by official advertisements, a compromising media tom-toms Navin Patnaik as the most able Chief Minister Orissa has had in her recent history. But visitors to these pages know that propaganda does not change the reality. Time comes, when corrupt practices adopted in administration, unveiled in the area of judicature, makes sure for people to know how hoodwinked had they been by the grabbers of power.
The High Court of Orissa may not pronounce a verdict on Navin�s ability because that is not an issue before it. But, a public interest litigation going on there has every scope to throw new light on his superb ability to steer the State into chaos.
We in these pages had discussed earlier the injury poor people of Orissa would be subjected to by promulgation of user fees in government hospitals. But in Navin-Raj, premium never gets put on genuine concerns. Avaricious people rule the roost.
And, see what has happened! Special audit conducted by the government auditors in only one Hospital, i.e. the S.C.B.Medical College Hospital, Cuttack has unveiled misuse and misappropriation of more than two Crore of Rupees (Rs.2,09,79509.00 exactly), from the user fees the poor people of Orissa have paid since 2005.
When the user fees scheme was formulated, we had described it as an onrush of anarchy.
Shockingly it was a scheme that was to allow a Government Doctor to deny medical advice to a patient in a government hospital during working hours if he or she fails to pay a sum of money that equals a day�s earning of a worker against 8 hours of hard labor.
Styled as �Pay clinic Scheme�, it required an outdoor patient to deposit a sum of Rs.50/- for consulting a doctor in any of the medical colleges and government Hospitals. The concerned doctor is to get 50% of this amount when other members of the medical staff including the nurse and sweepers are to get 20 per cent.
It meant, if the patient fails to pay this money, he is to know that he has no right to claim medical advice in the government hospital.
There are three medical colleges and around 400 Government Hospitals in Orissa. But, there are more than 400 registered private Clinics/ Nursing Homes besides unregistered corners for visiting doctors in all the medicine shops through out the state. In these private joints, all of the 4919 government doctors including medical college teachers indulge in private practice, notwithstanding their receiving non-practicing allowances in sumptuous sums.
The people of Orissa, worst sufferers as they are in health front, have always stressed that Govt. doctors are debarred from private practice. But the politico-bureaucratic nexus, whose palms the doctors usually grease, has never allowed this to happen.
Instead of compelling the doctors under its pay roll to pay proper attention to the patients, Orissa administration run by the nexus had come up with the scheme in question as the remedy!
Ignoring massive mass protests, the scheme was lunched on July 15, 2005 in the S.C.B. Medical College Hospital at Cuttack.
Under the Scheme, every non-surgery patient who comes to the Medical for urgent treatment during the afternoon shall have to pay Rs. 50.00 in order to get help of a specialist physician. The doctor and staff, save a minor amount towards �user fees�, shall take the money so collected as their �personal� fees.
The amount, we had then said, may not be big for the rich, but for the poor, it was too heavy to bear. In Orissa, 90 percent working people earn less than Rupees one thousand a month, which means, they do not earn Rs.50 everyday. The lucky ones who get a job for a day earn at best this amount over eight hours� drudgery. The Government never bothers to ensure availability of employment to any. Where from a poor person shall get money to pay this amount for a Government Doctor�s advice in a Government Hospital?
But our concern could not change the motive of money grabbers. The scheme was enforced. It unleashed private practice of government doctors in government hospitals. But Navin Government maintained that it was essential for building up funds for bettering the treatment scenario.
Experience does not convince that the treatment scenario has been bettered. But official audit, as shown supra, has established that an amount of around 2.10 crore of Rupees collected from poor patients towards user fees has been misused and misappropriated by the functionaries in the S.C.B. Medical College Hospital alone.
This is a tiny instance of what really is happening in Orissa under the Navin-Raj.
But more shameful is the recalcitrant attitude of administration. Taking cognizance on the audit report that has on the records exposed the misuse of user fees, the Orissa High Court has been crying for an action-taken-report from the Government. But concerns of the highest court of judicature in the province do not even merit appropriate official attention.
Surprised and shocked, the High Court has summoned the departmental Secretary to physically present himself before the adjudicating bench and apprise the Court of what action has been taken on its direction and against the swindlers through an affidavit duly sworn in.
The Court has refused to be misled by an evasive affidavit sworn in by a junior officer of the health department in defiance to the court�s earlier instruction.
And, the mandarins in Navin administration now know that political pressure and power play of private medical practitioners notwithstanding, bureaucracy cannot hoodwink the high court in this matter for any time to come.
If introspection helps, Navin may self-assess his ability on the matrix of this particular case and take remedial steps before the tortured mass of Oriyas finally decides that he must not be permitted to blacken rule of law any more.