Even as in recent years health-related issues have taken centre stage in India's political discourse, and have also started determining electoral outcomes to an extent, it is sad that these issues have also fallen victim to politics and political point-scoring. The result is that the public continues to suffer lack of adequate healthcare even as political parties continue to bicker.
One case in point is that of the hazardous levels of air pollution seen over the past month in the Delhi-NCR Region and over large swathes of North India. Despite the fact that the Indian Supreme Court was seized of the matter and the top bureaucrats from various states and the Centre were grilled in the apex court, there was hardly any solution forthcoming till finally high speed winds and rains intervened and the choking urban centres were finally able to breathe easy.
The burning of crop residue in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab was identified to be one major cause of the air pollution in the national capital and the NCR. There were a series of directives from the Apex Court to arrest this crop burning. Yet, satellite images revealed that crop burning continued and the cities continued to choke. The Supreme Court had to observe that Delhi had become a gas chamber and finally, perhaps in exasperation, opined that the executive should simply bomb the populace rather than killing it slowly through the polluted air.
Very recently, in Delhi, the Central government assured the Delhi High Court that it would set up a control room at the Safdarjung hospital in the national capital where any patient would be able to see the availability status of ICU beds in the various central government hospitals located in Delhi. The court was seized of the sorry state of affairs in Delhi where severely ill patients run from pillar to post, from one hospital to the other, for treatment, only to be turned away for want of an ICU bed. This unacceptable state of affairs often results in death without treatment of poor patients who cannot afford treatment in five star private hospitals. Notice has also been issued by the court to the Delhi government which is to file its affidavit.
The point is that proper healthcare is a fundamental right of the people enshrined in the constitution since it flows from the right to life. However, even as the Apex Court has upheld this right, the sheer inefficiency of the governments at all levels has meant that this right exists mostly in its denial.
The massive publicity around the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, despite the fact that accompanying improvement in healthcare delivery has lagged behind, has certainly given rise to an upsurge of expectations among the hitherto deprived populace. When clean air becomes a political issue, people start to expect it. When free treatment is promised to the poor, they start to expect it. And, when there is more promise and far less delivery, there is a feeling of disappointment, followed by anger. The political parties, rather than working to deliver proper healthcare, take the easy way out of indulging in a blame game, pinning the blame for non-delivery on their political opponent. If all political parties will only indulge in gimmickry and will not focus on healthcare delivery, the common man has only the single choice of fending for himself. Perhaps, spreading awareness at the grass-roots level and involving people in simple solutions to pollution and disease will bring better results.