Punjab government’s move to privatise healthcare is anti-people

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, January 21:  People in Punjab countryside should be prepared to face the worst with the state government having initiated the process to privatise healthcare in rural areas under what is known as people-private partnership (PPP) mode in which the people actually have no role. Social tension is already high in rural Punjab.

This move is  going to end up as a disaster. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh should have a re-look at such policies that relate to basic needs of the people. Neo-liberalism is already on way out but the Punjab government, it seems, continues to follow the same path that has dealt a serious blow to  health and education in public sector everywhere.

According to front-page news in a Chandigarh paper, the state government has invited expression of interest from private doctors and hospitals to run rural primary health centres.

One should go by earlier experience of involving corporate sector in health care in Punjab by allotting government land without any benefits to the people at large. A major chunk of land of Mohali civil hospital was allocated to a corporate. Hospital chains like Fortis and Max were “invited” by the state government years back in the name of investment in health sector. These hospitals are out of the reach of the common people but they have nowhere to go. These institutions just fleece the patients and complaints have been too common, all with the ‘patronage’ of the rulers.

Punjab at one time had premier institutions like medical colleges in Patiala and Amritsar that used to provide affordable quality care. These institutions are themselves are now in ICU, such has been the criminal neglect of the ruling elite and bureaucracy in this state.

Not only that. The authorities failed to respond to the offer of alumni of Government Medical College, Patiala, to help. The offer was red-taped.

The tragedy in Punjab is at another level. The state has miserably failed to maintain the infrastructure that was created over the years. Other states face the problem of opening of such institutions but in this case, these institutions have been dying.

The political elite and the bureaucracy are just apathetic. There is no difference between the Congress and the Akali Dal-BJP alliance on such policy issues as these formations follow the same disastrous economic policies that at one time were dictated by the World Bank.

No state can progress without adequate investment in human resources development of which the two key areas are education and health. Both these sectors in Punjab are sick, thanks to the neglect over the years and the classical examples of the two medical colleges at Patiala and Amritsar.

The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has taken the lead by reviving government schools and hospitals and the results are before the people. The basic issue is that is taking personal interest backed by sources. Delhi government has set the example for others to follow.

It is pertinent to mention that the best affordable healthcare in the region is provided by Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and  Research in Chandigarh that is popularly known as the PGI. It is a government institution.

Capt Amarinder Singh should reconsider such policies to make his government pro-people. Doling out crumbs is different from taking pro-people policy decisions.

Jagtar Singh


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