It was supposed to be an emergency grant to save lives of the poor in medical distress.
But in what appears to be a procedural lapse at the state government level, some 26 out of 39 cheques pertaining to the Mukhya Mantri Chikitsa Sahayta Kosh (Chief Minister’s Medical Relief Fund) have been returned to the Health Department because of insufficient funds. The returned cheques amount to Rs 14.65 lakh.
Most of these cheques, meant for the aam admi (common man), bounced between January 10 and February 4 this year, after the balance in the account (number 30121380424) with the State Bank of India, Bailey Road Branch, Patna, plummeted to Rs 11,794.
Worse still, Ranjan Kumar Singh, a cancer patient, did not survive long to avail of the Chief Minister’s largesse of Rs 1.5 lakh sanctioned for his treatment (cheque No. 076418, dated September 30, 2008) at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow. After that too bounced, his sister politely returned the cheque to the department.
Though the SBI bluntly refused to part with any information to Hindustan Times, as it was tantamount to ‘breach of trust’, sources in the Health Department said that while 26 cheques had bounced because of insufficient funds, 13 others had been returned for ‘other reasons’.
Faced with this embarrassment, the Health Department, has now quietly withheld disbursement of some 50 other cheques, leaving in the lurch patients suffering from life threatening diseases.
When HT approached Director-in-Chief, Health Services, Dr Shatrughan Prasad Singh, who is the chairman of the empowered committee to decide on the beneficiaries, he casually dismissed it. “I have not received any such cheque. Anyway, we have moved a proposal to the cabinet for allocation of Rs 5 crore and it should be sanctioned next week.”
The fund, raised by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2006, for those having an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh, covers critical diseases like cancer, brain tumour, AIDS, heart and kidney diseases and certain orthopaedic ailments, including spinal surgery, total hip and knee replacement as also ailments necessitating bone marrow transplant.