Maha govt appoints watchdog panel for frauds in crowdfunding
The government has learnt that funds are collected by some even after the completion of treatment. Sometimes, a lot of money is raised for small surgeries. We need to monitor these platforms, says official
It is not uncommon to come across posts on social media by crowdfunding websites asking for contributions to help the needy access medical treatment that is out of their means. However, while many have benefitted from this enterprise, frauds have invaded the space to make a quick buck. In order to stem this malaise and protect citizens from being swindled, the medical education and drugs department, under medical education ministry, has appointed a committee to draw up rules for crowdfunding companies before they ask for donations.
The trigger for this, said state medical education minister, Girish Mahajan, were reports of malpractices being shared by doctors on social media. On August 25, 2022, after Mumbai-based cardiac surgeon Dr Prashant Mishra had tweeted on the subject, underlining how funds being raised for simple surgeries, such as gall bladder, was three to four times than the total cost of surgery. In the same month, another medical professional from Delhi, Dr Alok Gupta, had posted a message on Twitter along with a photoshopped estimate letter by him used by a crowdfunding website to raise funds.
“They are collecting crores by showing images of helplessness of needy families. The government has learnt that funds are collected by some even after the completion of treatment. Sometimes, a lot of money is raised for small surgeries. We need to monitor these platforms,” said Mahajan.
The government’s five-member committee, appointed on May 29, has been asked to submit its report in two months. It will be headed by commissioner of medical education, Virendra Singh, and include special inspector general of police (cyber) Maharashtra, Yashaswi Yadav; deputy secretary of law and justice department, Makrand Kulkarni; joint director of health services, Tulsidas Solanke; and joint director (dental) of medical education and research, Dr Vivek Pakhmode.
“While crowdfunding to help the needy is a noble cause, there is no manual given by the government to regulate those seeking funds,” said Ajit Sasulkar, deputy secretary, medical education and research, of state government. He added, cheats entering the field, “has led to a growing mistrust among those who wish to genuinely donate funds, which affects the truly needy”. Mahajan concurred and said, “We want control over the crowdfunding platforms and also enhance the trust of the donors.”
Applauding the government’s recent move, Dr Prashant Mishra said, “I am glad that the issues highlighted by me and others in the fraternity have led to this development. We are a developing country with modest funds. Maximum patients must benefit and donors should be satisfied that their money has benefitted someone. Regulations were needed for a long time. This will ensure that money goes to the right hands.”