Kolkata: Recently, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation permitted the use of MPLAD (members of Parliament local area development scheme) funds for medical testing, screening and other facilities required to fight Covid-19. A number of Member of Parliament (MP)s had requested that this fund be allowed to be used for Covid-19 related activities. Following the order, parliamentarians have been offering these funds to districts and states to combat the epidemic.
“The party president and Srinagar MP (Farooq Abdullah) released an amount of Rs 1 crore from his MPLAD funds today to combat the COVID-19 threat in Jammu and Kashmir,” a NC spokesperson said. Numerous other MPs have also decided to ‘donate’ their funds. In Bengal too a number of ministers have volunteered to ‘donate’ the money.
But the point is who is a minister to ‘donate’ anything, especially from a public fund? The money in the MPLAD fund is public money anyway! It is the tax payer’s hard-earned money which is going to be used to upgrade an already crumbling health system in an under-developed country. This should have been done long ago, long before this emergency came along.
Narendra Modi in his address to the nation said before India ended up like Italy we need to take this lockdown seriously. He even said countries like the USA and Italy where the public health system is quite advanced, people have been suffering so much and so many deaths have been recorded! What chance do we have then, should a similar crisis situation arise here? Isn’t it a shame that a prime minister who promised ‘sabka vikaas’ has had to accept failure, albeit in an indirect way when it comes to the public health crisis?
No matter how much you play the conch shells at 5pm each evening, the truth is we lack a proper functioning health care system and adequate staff and equipment. The doctors, nurses and all other health staff are working hard no doubt, but our leaders at the top have never done enough to upgrade the health system in the country, let alone stay prepared for an emergency situation! A lot of people are gearing up to take Chinese authorities to international court for bringing this crisis upon human race as a whole. But before you look outside, look inside! How much have your leaders done to ensure you have proper health care in your town or your city? Aren’t the elected representatives of this country supposed to be held accountable at all? Why do we have substandard facilities in district hospitals and polyclinics in rural areas?
Let me give you an example. I grew up in a small hill station called Kurseong in Darjeeling district. There is just one government hospital in that town and 2-3 privately owned health clinics. There are no nursing homes, no polyclinics. For every major ailment, that is beyond the means of the poor doctors in that government run hospital, all patients are advised to go to Siliguri and referred to doctors there. So then a hapless patient can do nothing much, but book a car to Siliguri, the nearest suburban district headquarters and see a doctor there. If the doctor here too fails to diagnose correctly after conducting innumerable tests, he is then referred to hospitals in New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and so on and so forth! The point I’m trying to make is, inspite of already existing MPLAD funds in each of these district suburbs and headquarters, why are the facilities not available in the small town itself?! Why wait for a crisis to use that money for better health care? Why is it not part of election agenda?
Like I said, before you point fingers at China, take a closer look at your local MLAs and MPs for whom you have walked in rallies, given up a day’s wages and even argued over a glass of wine! What kind of a health system have they given you in return for your precious vote!