ndsharma's blog

MP’s never-ending health scandal

Posted on: June 8, 2012

When the Lokayukta police raided the Bhopal residence of director of health services Dr A N Mittal in the second week of May, Dr Mittal was simply stunned. But his wife Alka Mittal could not keep her cool and shouted at the raiding party: “why don’t you raid the house of the minister whom we give Rs one crore every month; you are only after small fries like us”. Before she could say something more, Dr Mittal rushed to her, put his hand on her mouth and dragged her inside a room.

This, in nutshell, is the story of corruption in Madhya Pradesh and the farce of Lokayukta Prakash Prabhakar Naolekar’s zeal for acting against the corrupt. The initial seizures at Dr Mittal’s residence were estimated around Rs 15 crore. The final figures of Dr Mittal’s worth will be known only after his bank lockers have been checked and his landed properties spread across Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been evaluated.

It was not as if the Lokayukta had suddenly received tips about corruption in the health department. Complaints have been lying with the Lokayukta against the department and also against Dr Mittal. Former PCC spokesman K K Mishra had lodged a complaint with the Lokayukta that Dr Mittal had, while a joint director in the health department, bungled Rs 2.16 crore in the purchase of fogging machines, had misappropriated Rs 14 crore in the purchase of mosquito nets in 2009-2010, to mention only two.

Income-tax raids

More importantly, a raiding party of Income-Tax Department had found at the palatial residence of then director of health services Dr Yogiraj Sharma in 2007 cash stashed in beds and cupboards and kitchen utensils, besides a large number of gold jewellery and silver articles. But more than the cash, it was the details of his properties, investments and bank accounts that left the I-T sleuths wide-eyed. It took them more than two years to make some sense of the trail of investments made by Dr Sharma in his own name as well as in the names of his relatives and associates. As many as 85 bank accounts in the name of Dr Yogiraj Sharma and his family members were found with a total deposit of Rs 30 crore. Besides, the department had recovered 27 credit and other cards issued by banks.

Another director of health services Dr Ashok Sharma and health commissioner Rajesh Rajora, IAS, were also found in possession of assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. The raids had also led a trail to the family of then health minister Ajay Vishnoi. As the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were round the corner, Shivraj Singh Chauhan had dropped him from the cabinet. After the elections, Vishnoi was re-inducted into the cabinet, though given charge of another department. Present health minister Narottam Mishra is a close confidant of chief minister Chauhan and his wife Sadhna Singh — and known for taking extra cautions in the matters extracurricular.

This is the money received mostly from the Centre under various schemes to provide health care to the children, the pregnant and lactating women, the weaker sections, the rural poor and the like. One can just imagine the condition of the health services in the State, unabashed lies being daily doled out by the chief minister notwithstanding. Was it a wonder that the sex ratio had started showing considerable improvement in all the 50 districts of the State from 2001 onwards but it drastically declined in 49 of the 50 districts during the Shivraj Singh Chauhan regime.

Moreover, what the Income-Tax and Lokayukta raids bring out is but a small percentage of the total amount siphoned off by the politicians and bureaucrats. It will be naive to presume that only Dr Mittal, or Dr Yogiraj Sharma, had been taking the money and others in the department had been just moot spectators.

A simultaneous raid on the residence of junior auditor Ganesh Prasad Kirar gives an idea of chief minister Chauhan’s meticulous corruption network. Kirar was employed in the chief minister’s secretariat and enjoyed the confidence of Chauhan household. About two years back he was transferred to the health department, reportedly at the suggestion of health minister Narottam Mishra. There are 17 auditors in the department. However, all the files of Dr Mittal were reportedly “cleared” by Kirar — for the obvious reason.

The raid on Kirar’s house had yielded Rs 10 lakh in cash, Rs ten lakh in two bank accounts, half a kg of gold, 4.5 kg of silver, 20 acres of land in Raisen district, two palatial bungalows and a flat in Bhopal, four shops in posh localities in Bhopal, two cars, two motor-cycles and a tractor.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has also been highlighting the bungling in the health department.  The CAG, according to his report for the financial year ending March 31, 2009, for instance, had carried out test checks in 12 districts and found that 49 to 58 per cent pregnant women had not even been registered in health centres during their first trimester. The maternal and infant mortality rate continued to be high. Spectacles were not supplied to as many as 30,715 children out of 57,191 suffering from vision problems, from 2005 to 2009 in these 12 districts.

The CAG test checked 17 Community Health Centres declared as Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care but none of these had the required infrastructure; 25 test-checked Primary Health Centres were found to be non-functional or functioning only partially because of lack of sufficient staff and infrastructure and 101 Primary Health Centres were functioning without doctors.

The State had recruited only 42,777 accredited social health activists (ASHAs) as against the requirement of 44,379. These ASHAs were mostly functioning as motivators under the Janani Suraskha Yojana of the State’s health department, leaving other functions under the NRHM unattended, according to the report.

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Value of propaganda

Adolf Hitler believed in the use of propaganda as an integral element to seizing and holding on to political power. His maxim was 'the bigger the lie, the more easily it will be believed, provided it is repeated vigorously and often enough'. (Sean Murphy in his book 'Letting the Side Down')

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