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Mumbai civic body’s diktat could dry up funding for NGO

The BMC on Monday declared Praja Foundation as persona non grata; NGO says it will reply in suitable manner

mumbai Updated: Nov 22, 2017 16:36 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,dengue,tuberculosis
The civic health officials said the municipal commissioner will now decide whether to inform those making financial contributions to the NGO abouts its decision, which could make it difficult for the organisation to sustain. (Representational photo/ REUTERS)

Looks like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has tightened the noose around non-governmental organisation (NGO) Praja Foundation. The civic body on Monday declared the NGO as persona non grata [unwelcome or unacceptable because of something said or done].

Civic health officials said the municipal commissioner will now decide whether to inform those making financial contributions to the NGO abouts its decision, which could make it difficult for the organisation to sustain itself.The move comes four months after the NGO published a controversial white paper.

In July, the NGO published a white paper based on the information it said it collected from the health department by filing queries under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. However, health officials alleged that the data collected by the NGO on tuberculosis (TB) and dengue was intentionally used to tarnish the BMC’s reputation and mislead citizens.

“The randomly collected information has been misinterpreted and misrepresented without being aware of the basic knowledge of the national health programme,” said Dr Shantaram Naik, deputy executive health officer.

Praja Foundation had then claimed that TB patients were dropping out of government-run Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) programme. Its report stated that the dropout rate had increased by 10% between 2012 and 2017. The foundation also claimed that dengue deaths in Mumbai had doubled in the past five years, with a whopping 265% rise in patients testing positive for dengue.

“The dropout rate of TB patients for the year 2012 is calculated on the basis of total cases. While the calculation for 2016 is based on the total new cases. Hence, the figure arrived at [by the NGO] is inflated and misguiding,” states a BMC notice.

Health officials added that the NGO, while analysing dengue patients, indicated an increase in number of cases from 2012-13 to 2016-17. However, they failed to consider whether the cases were suspected or confirmed.

Commenting on the issue, managing trustee of Praja Foundation Nitai Mehta said they will soon respond to the BMC notice legally.

“It’s BMC’s own data that we present to the people to bring more transparency in the system. The fact is that the officials hate being shown a mirror, and thus the reaction. We will respond to them in a suitable manner,” said Mehta.

He added that the organisation is not bothered about civic body contacting its donors.

“We aren’t a profit-making organisation. Our aim is to improve the healthcare system of the city. We will ensure our sustainability through other sources,” Mehta said.

Civic officials on the other hand said that they will upload all the data about communicable and non-communicable diseases on the BMC website to offer complete transparency to the public.

“The NGO doesn’t consider new protocols or change in strategies by the health department. It interprets data based on vague numbers and statistics. It’s a way of sensationalising figures and earn money through offshore donors and organisations by creating panic situations,” said a high-ranking BMC official.

First Published: Nov 22, 2017 16:34 IST