Open letter to Shri UT Khader, Health Minister, Karnataka

27th May 2016

Dear Sir,

It is good to see that you are very active and busy with many meetings and inauguration ceremonies. You get lots of attention from media and from all places you visit. You also speak nicely at different fora about the need to support marginalised communities and ensure that health reaches them.

All this is very commendable, dear health minister, but your words speak louder than your actions. In fact, on most occasions, your words are contrary to your actions.

Your decision to shut down the Arogya Bandhu scheme is excellent and long required. What about the financial and health damages caused by this scheme? Will the state government be accountable for all the financial and data fraud that occurred in this scheme? Will anyone be penalised? What about the crores of money that NGOs and private entities have made for themselves in the name of Arogya Bandhu? Will this be recovered? Are investigations being carried out against these agencies?

Sir, there are thousands of cases of unnecessary hysterectomies in your state. These, as you very well know, are targeting poor, marginalised and vulnerable women, many of them in the age group of 25 – 27. Poor women’s bodies are becoming a source of income for unscrupulous doctors in your state. Inspite of repeatedly being asked to do something about it, what have you done in reality? You have set up some enquiry committees and that is the end of that story. The cases are continuing as usual. Does it mean that you do not have time? Or does it mean that you do not care? It would be good to have some clarity from you on what your position is with this regard. What punitive action has the state taken against those who have performed unnecessary surgeries? What systems have you put in place to send out a clear message that this will not be tolerated by the state and severe action will be taken against erring and negligent health providers? What is the grievance redressal for women who have had unnecessary procedures done on them?

Sir, you have created this body called Karnataka Jnana Ayoga, meaning Knowledge Commission. In this Commission, you have placed some people. How have these people been selected? Are you not aware that most of these people have a conflict of interest?

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, is a corporate tycoon. On the one hand, you put her in charge of the sub-committee for “affordable” medicine and on the other hand, the state government sanctions a loan of 1060 crores to her company Biocon to start a pharmaceutical plant. Do you not, as health minister, find this to be a dangerous prospect? How can a pharmaceutical company head be put in charge of affordable medicine? Is this not conflict of interest?
You place Devi Shetty on the sub-committee as Health ombudsman so that all health related grievances in the state are referred to him. An ombudsman or public advocate is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence, who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights.

Under the Yeshaswini scheme and the Vajpayee Arogyashree scheme, Devi Shetty’s hospital, Narayana Hrudayala receives the major share of government funding. Many cases of violation and medical negligence under these schemes have been documented and even published. Still, you expect people to take up grievance redressal with Devi Shetty, who not only owns the Narayana Health chain of hospitals, but also sits on the board for the Vajpayee Arogyashree scheme. Do you really think that he will be a fair and objective ombudsman if cases of violation from his own hospitals are brought to him?

Do you not think that as Health minister you have failed in your duty and have in fact facilitated a situation where you support and provide impunity to corporate entities to be the perpetrator, the accused, the jury and the judge all at the same time? What is the vested interest that you have to support setting up of these kind of knowledge commissions that are, in reality, para-statal and anti-constitutional bodies providing diktats to a willing and co-opting state government? Who have you consulted when setting up these committees and commissions?

Your words are that health systems should cater to the poor and marginalised communities, but your actions are all directed towards protecting those who violate these very same communities and giving them more powerful positions to adversely affect policies for the state.

If you are more a representative of the corporate mafia rather than women who are dying due to medical negligence and criminal activity at the hands of these very same mafia, then you should change your position from that of health minister to corporate minister.

Naren Bedide (Kuffir), Round Table India

Sridhar Gowda, Publisher

Meena Artwani, Researcher

Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor

Soumya Suresh, Human Rights Activist

Swarna Bhat, GRAKOOS

Mohit P Gandhi, Medical doctor

Sonia Sunny, Doctoral nurse

Kitty Gautham, Editor at M Modal Global Services Pvt. Ltd.

Priyabrata Mahapatro, Senior Technical Lead at HCL Technologies

Pallavi Rao, PhD student at The Media School at Indiana University

Shashank Karuna Kancherla, The University of Texas at Austin

Anish Nair, Trivandrum, India

Manohar Elavarthi, Swaraj Abhiyan/ KJC

Deepak Siddananja

 

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