Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani said on Monday that his BJP colleague and chief parliamentary secretary (health) Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu was “telling lies” about drug prevalence in the state. “Whatever she says is not gospel truth,” he said while interacting with the media here. Dr Sidhu had recently said drugs were being ferried in red-beacon (official) vehicles in Punjab.
He was responding to questions about contradictory statements by him and CPS Sidhu on the drug menace. “You should better go and ask Dr Sidhu,” he told reporters, and added, “Punjab is being maligned on the drug issue... A survey in 10 districts has revealed that only 1.8% people are in the grip of drugs. If the survey is extended to all districts, it may come down to 1% only.” He was apparently referring to a survey by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
He then lost his cool on questions about illegal agents charging hefty sums for preparing or correcting birth and death certificates. “You can even get a person murdered by paying money,” he said. Asked if he would order a crackdown on such agents who work allegedly in connivance with government staff, he denied that such a practice exists. “Give me a complaint, file an affidavit,” he said. To another question, he informed that of 4 lakh complaints received by the department’s helpline ‘104’, only 5,000 were redressed.
He also reiterated his statement that liquor is “not an intoxicant but ‘paagal paani’ (crazy water)”. “What I said earlier, I stand by that. A man in his right senses will not booze. He will take to drinking only when crazy.”
Further, he defended government doctors who do private practice against the rules even when they get a non-practising allowance (NPA): “None of these doctors has displayed a board outside his private clinic... Patients go to these doctors only because they find them good.”
In reply to another question, he acknowledged that money made doctors leave government jobs for private health institutions: “You cannot force a person to make a particular decision. It is a democracy. Everyone has the right to choose what he thinks is good for him.” He also informed that about 290 posts of specialist doctors were vacant.