Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO END THE COMMISSION SYSTEM

Even after the matter of death of 23 children on 10 August, 2017 at Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital had come to light, children continued to die there. In all 30 children died over two days 10-11 August and 60 children died over five days from 7 to 11 August indicating that Yogi government had little control over the turn of events.

Yogi says he has been working on the problem of death of children due to Japanese encephalitis since 1996-97 but if there is no improvement in the situation then responsibility must be fixed.

Photo courtesy AFP

After becoming the Chief Minister he has said on more than one occasion that he is only a part time politician. If this is the truth then it is inexplicable why he chose to become the Member of Parliament four times in a row. If he thinks he can’t give full time to his chief minister-ship then he must give up the post. In the Indian historical tradition there are not many instances when a monk or saint became a ruler. The role of monk or saint has usually been that of an advisor to the ruler.

Yogi says that nobody can be more concerned about the children in Gorakhpur than him. But merely a statement won’t do unless he is able to bring to end the high incidence of children’s deaths.

On the fourth day from the tragedy in Gorakhpur Yogi made a statement that he cannot stop observance of Janamashtmi in Police Stations until offering of Namaz on roads is stopped. He said that until people in the Kanwar yatra don’t make a noise through whatever instruments they have and don’t dance how will it appear to be a Kanwar yatra. Otherwise it may appear to be a funeral procession. He said if microphone is to be banned in Kanwar yatra it should first be banned in all religious places. No voice should be audible outside a religious place. He asked the officials whether they can enforce such an order? He further said that if they cannot do this, then no ban would be imposed on anything. He made an appeal to people to shower flower petals on kanwariyas.

How can we believe that even before the headlines about children’s death in Gorakhpur have disappeared from the newspapers somebody who is concerned about children will talk like this on a non-priority issue and even that in an aggressive tone. Even after becoming the CM he is keen to represent his religious identity and wants it to be assertive. He is obviously more worried about the Kanwariyas than the children.

Maybe the people who don’t have children and more importantly have kept themselves aloof from living in human relationships should not hold high executive offices. When they don’t have children and family how will they have empathy for the loss of children? Only a person who has experienced family life will understand the difficulties of life better and will also be in a better position to come up with solutions. That is why problems for common poor and lower middle class people have increased in the Modi, Yogi regimes.

The Gorakhpur incident also offers a glimpse of what will happen if health care is privatised. The company which held the oxygen supply contract simply stopped the supply when payment was not made. Private hospitals will not treat the poor because the reason for their existence is profit making. For the poor the only hope is government hospitals. Therefore more people keep coming to BRD Medical College even after knowing that there is a danger to their child and they are probably not going to get the best of facilities.

In a democratic country education and health care should remain in the government sector so that all citizens have access to good quality of these services. Privatisation of these sectors will be an anti-poor stand. The government should take complete responsibility for these two sectors and must make effort to make available to people high quality services in them. Even after news of death of children made national headlines garbage strewn over floor in the corridors of the BRD Medical College could still be found. What can be a bigger mockery of the national clean India campaign?

photo courtesy AFP

A three member investigation team from the Central government declared that the deaths of children were not caused due to lack of oxygen supply. This has been a matter of debate since the very first day. Whether the children died due to stoppage in Oxygen supply or not, fact remains that the hospital owed close to Rs. 70 lakhs to the vendor who was contracted to make the supply, even though money was available with the hospital. Clearly it was an issue of commission not having been paid or a higher demand for commission remaining unfulfilled.
In this country payment and receipt of commissions is the primary mode of corruption and the Narendra Modi government, ostensibly committed to end corruption, has not even acknowledged the existence of this problem.

Part of the money generated from commissions is ploughed back into electoral politics. This is unaccounted or black money. If the practice of commissions is done away with, it will be the beginning of ending of corruption campaign and the first visible sign will be clean elections.

It is blot on this country that rate of commission have been set for every government department, office, scheme, project, etc. If one wants to be the beneficiary of one of the many government schemes a prescribed money has to be paid. If some construction is to be done, then officials of development authority and anybody who has to give any approval will demand their share of cut. Rates are fixed for movement of files from one table to another in government offices. If somebody has taken a government contract then money will have to be paid to in-charge government officials. Different amounts are fixed for different works, departments, supply of items, for copying in examinations, people’s representatives of ruling party and higher level officials. The bribe amount is also shared with colluding officials above and below. This system of commissions is still flourishing because it finances electoral politics.

Does the Yogi or Modi government have the political will to strike at the roots of corruption in this country?

Sandeep Pandey is an Indian social activist. Magsaysay Award recipient, Gandhian and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a co-founder of Asha for Education. He is a Former Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

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