AAP Govt puts rural healthcare on ventilator in Punjab
Rural dispensaries closed, protests erupts across the state
Chandigarh, February 20
With the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP Government in Punjab opening 400 more Aam Aadmi Clinics, massive protests have erupted in the rural areas across the state. What has led to massive resentment among the thousands of villagers is the fact that rural dispensaries have been shut down in order to open the Aam Aadmi Clinics. More interesting is the fact that not even a single brick has been laid for the Aam Aadmi Clinics that were opened on January 26 by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, in the presence of AAP National Convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. In reality, it is the Sewa Kendra, Primary Health Centres and rural Subsidiary Health Centres (SHC), which have been converted into 500 Aam Aadmi Clinics (100 opened in August last year and 400 in January this year). Since, the government did not have required doctors to post in the Aam Aadmi Clinics; the Rural Medical Officers (RMOs) posted at the Rural Dispensaries have been shifted to Aam Aadmi Clinics, leaving the villagers “high and dry”.
What has been the bone of contention is the fact that with the closing down of the rural dispensaries, now the villagers will have to travel 5-7 kms to get basic healthcare facilities. Besides, RMOs, villagers, village panchayats and all the main opposition political parties of the state have been opposing the move “tooth and nail” and aggrieved villagers have been holding protests at the local level. According to opponents of the ruling AAP, on the lines of Delhi’s Mohalla Clinics, Punjab government’s flagship healthcare programme of Aam Aadmi Clinics, is nothing but a “cheap publicity stunt” by merely changing the signboards of existing government buildings.
The villagers feel that by completely neglecting the existing 564 rural SHCs falling under the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, the AAP government has been hell bent upon opening Aam Aadmi Clinics, just to prove that they have fulfilled the promise made in the party’s election manifesto. “Aam Aadmi Clinics have proved extremely detrimental for rural healthcare, as it has led to closure of the rural dispensaries. The rural healthcare is crumbling in the state but the Bhagwant Mann government is more interesting in getting publicity by giving full page advertisements in the newspapers of improving health facilities in Punjab in the form of these clinics”, said residents of the Rupalheri village in Bassi Pathana tehsil of Fatehgarh Sahib district. The residents of many other villages also disclosed that though the government was claiming that rural dispensaries are functional but the reality is that instead of doctors, nurses have been posted at the rural dispensaries.
Speaking on the issue, Qadian MLA and Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Partap Singh Bajwa said, “CM shouldn’t have used his own images at the health centres that the Aam Aadmi Party government had recently renamed after its party.” He further said that in a hopeless move to falsely demonstrate its performance, the AAP government has been renaming the existing health facilities in the state, despite the fact, infrastructure and services wise nothing has been changed.
Punjab congress Chief Amrinder Singh Raja WarringBJP National Spokesperson, Jaiveer Shergill, also said that closure of the rural dispensaries has created havoc for the rural people of the state. “Opening of 500 Aam Aadmi Clinics is a mere PR stunt to divert attention from AAP government neglect towards Punjab healthcare. Before coming to power, AAP had promised that they will ensure that rural people get good healthcare but after taking over the reins of Punjab, the rural healthcare has been utterly ignored. Instead of spending funds to the tune of crores on new clinics, its better is to upgrade the existing rural dispensaries”, he asserted.
Aam Aadmi Clinic
It is pertinent to mention here that just five days before the launch of 400 Aam Aadmi Clinics, Health Secretary Ajoy Sharma was transferred, as he objected to spending of a whopping Rs 30 crore on publicity of Aam Aadmi Clinics. According to reliable sources, Sharma was being forced to give an administrative approval to a budget of Rs 30 crore for promotion of Clinics. “What is the need to publicise Aam Aadmi Clinics in the state and up to South India, except to further the political agenda of AAP Convener Arvind Kejriwal”, questioned senior Akali Dal leader Dr. Daljit Singh Cheema.
Dr. Cheema said the truth was that Mohalla clinics had failed in both Delhi and Punjab. He said, “Instead of accepting this reality, the government was trying to sell this model in other states at the expense of the Punjab exchequer”, while adding that the former health secretary, who refused to approve the Rs. 30 crore publicity proposal is being threatened.
Venting his anger against the AAP Government, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring described the opening of the Aam Aadmi Clinics in Punjab as “mere publicity stunt” saying, “It was a classic case of old wine in new bottles, as the government was only renaming the existing health facilities.” He asked why these clinics were not named as “government clinics” and why as Aam Aadmi clinics with Chief Minister’s photograph.
Warring further said, “First of all there was no need to open such clinics as Punjab already has a robust healthcare system, which was proved by the fact that the government was only renaming the existing healthcare facilities and superimposing party name on them which is illegal”, adding, “It was only trying to propagate and publicise its party name”.
Accusing the Bhagwant Mann government of playing with the lives of people just to indulge in a PR exercise to revive the party’s sinking ship in Punjab, Senior SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia said that the entire exercise had the makings of a “massive scam” and demanded an independent probe into the issue.
The SAD leader also registered a strong protest at the manner in which the names of five satellite centres established in the memory of the Panj Pyaras in 1999 during the 300th anniversary celebrations of the birth of the Khalsa by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, had been defaced by putting Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s picture along with the nomenclatural of Aam Aadmi Clinic. He said even after strong protests registered by the Sangat, the AAP government had only added the names of the Panj Pyaras in a strip with the focus still remaining on the Chief Minister’s picture.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference on the issue, the SAD legal wing president Arshdeep S Kler said the move would not only destroy the rural health infrastructure, painstakingly developed over decades, but would also deprive ruralites of health services, which they were earlier getting at their doorstep.
What is more shocking is that few rural dispensaries that have survived are in shambles and without medicines. For a long time, rural dispensaries did not have the required medicine stock. In the absence of the medicines, patients were forced to buy medicines from chemist shops. What is more shocking is the fact that the RMOs posted at several rural dispensaries had brought some medicines from their own pocket, so that the patients do not suffer for the want of medicines. Because of lack of medicines and other facilities, the rural dispensaries witnessed a drastic decline in patient footfall.
This is nothing but playing a cruel joke with the Punjab villagers: Dr. Aslam Parvez
Strongly condemning the Punjab Government, President of the Rural Medical Officers Association, Punjab, Dr. Aslam Parvez, said that it was shameful that in order to justify its election manifesto, the government has resorted to such a drastic step of shutting down the rural dispensaries. He further said that rural dispensaries cater to more than 50 per cent of the total population of the state but unfortunately, the present government has completely ignored them. While demanding immediate withdrawal of the orders to shift doctors from rural dispensaries and ensure that all the rural dispensaries remain functional, Dr. Aslam also demanded from the government to ensure that all necessary medicines/equipment is provided to rural dispensaries without fail.