Tannu Sharma, Indian Express, November 17, 2007
NEW DELHI, November 15: Around 15 hospitals and health centres in Madhya Pradesh, exclusively set up for the treatment and care of the persons affected by the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, are catering to people other than the victims, the Supreme Court was told on Thursday.
Pointing to the glaring inadequacies that exist even after 23 years of the tragedy, which had claimed 15,000 lives besides injuring more than 5 lakh, the apex court-appointed Monitoring Committee submitted before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan that treatment is given in gas relief hospitals without laying down any policy.
Indira Jaisingh, appearing along with senior advocate P S Narsimha for the gas victims, highlighted how the state had failed to lay down any parameters, especially with regard to persons who were qualified to receive the benefit of the hospitals. “Majority of those getting treatment at the hospitals are non-gas relief victims, at the cost of the actual victims,” she told the court.
“There are a sizeable number of persons who are making use of the facility of hospitals without paying any fees just because they happen to be related to a gas patient or may be residing in the same yard where the patients reside.”
Jaisingh, referring to the sixth report, lamented how such a situation “creates an inflated number of gas patients that artificially leads to a shortage of everything including medicines, indoor ward facilites and availability of doctors and para-medical staff.”
The counsel, while bringing to fore the various deficiencies in the administration and relief offered by the state, raised some pertinent questions like whether these hospitals were exclusively set up for the gas affected patients, what’s the policy regarding free treatment to non-gas affected patients and whether the affected patients can have free treatment even if they shift out of Bhopal?
Terming it “astonishing” that for the last 23 years, government was yet to respond with a detailed policy on the subject, the counsel also said that hospitals in the state, despite court’s orders, were yet to be computerised.
Perusing the submissions, the bench sought to know why no action was taken and no policy been specified so far. Subsequently, on the request of the state government counsel, it gave another four weeks to furnish its response to the report.