Monday Musings: Of Pune’s half-dead Thackeray hospitals and Delhi’s ‘mohalla clinics’...
The civic transformation initiated by the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi ought to serve as a template for municipal bodies across the country.Updated: Dec 09, 2019 16:18 IST
Four months ago, on September 5 we reported how eight civic hospitals in Pune, including those named after the Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and his late son, Bindumadhav, were lying wasted in Pune.
We pointed out that while 18 hospitals of the Pune Municipal Corporation, were grossly understaffed, eight of them were existing painfully as empty shells, without staff or equipment.
Some of these hospitals had cosmetic OPDs (out patients department), but that’s about it.
Crores from the public fund had been spent on them, but they were of no use to the public.
In sharp contrast are the ‘mohalla clinics’ started by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government in New Delhi, which were immensely popular with all the residents- not just the poor- in the localities they exist in.
It was at the concluding session of the 17th annual Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2019 that Kejriwal spoke of the various civic initiatives undertaken by his government. The theme was ‘Conversations for a better tomorrow’ and it is noteworthy that many of the initiatives mentioned by Kejriwal can be easily replicated by the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations.
The transformation of civic schools and hospitals by the Delhi government in the last five years have been making news in the media.
“Can you believe,” he said, “that more than a 100 municipal students had cleared the entrance exam for the prestigious IITs,” triggering amazement in the audience. “Have you heard of swimming pools in municipal schools?” he asked, amidst thunderous claps again and again.
Kejriwal spoke of how his government had denied permission to private schools to raise fees again and again in the last five years.
If this can be done in Delhi, why can’t it be done in Maharashtra and in other states across the country?
Commuting by civic buses had been made free for women. This cost the government about Rs140 crore, far less than the Rs190 crore that the Gujarat chief minister spent on buying a helicopter for himself, quipped Kejriwal.
He pointed out of how there was round-the-clock electricity in Delhi and free power to nearly 25 lakh poor consumers over the last five years.
“The mini-gensets that used to be seen in virtually every shop have vanished and the sale of inverters is down by lakhs,” he said. A lot of this has been reported by the media, he said by way of validation.
The chief minister spoke of his government’s initiatives to prevent corruption by local tax officials. “We made the GST inspectors sit at home during Diwali and told our traders and shopkeepers to pay their taxes honestly and help the government in it’s work. The shopkeepers agreed and our tax collection has gone up consistently in the last five years without raising taxes,” he said.
Kejriwal spoke of how his government had brought down corruption in civic infrastructure projects, thus saving valuable public resources. He cited the case of a flyover whose cost had been brought down from the estimated Rs300 crore to Rs225 crore, simply through due diligence.
Under the accident victims’ Farishta scheme, nearly 3,000 lives of accident victims had been saved by urging people to rush them to the nearest hospital and giving people the assurance that the government would pay the bills, he said.
The campaign to prevent the breeding of dengue mosquito was also successful, bringing down the incidence and deaths caused by dengue, he noted.
Kejriwal made a point that should be noted by urban dwellers across the country: Change is possible. All that one needs is honesty and sincerity of purpose.