Monday, July 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Pitiable state of medical services

THERE has been a lot of hype and hoopla about the quality of health services and medical care in India and Punjab in particular, but the impasse continues to be there, specially with the insensitive doctors at the helm of affairs. It is time to have a unified command of health services or a directorate of health services in Punjab (or any other state) with a pyramidical structure with a central control room at the top.

Flaunting degrees will not get the doctors anywhere — their only cause is to serve the people. In older times word-of-mouth publicity of doctors was sufficient. Nowadays it is “public relations officer” or the agent to be more specific.

There are doctors who are competent and have a name and will charge, say, Rs 50 or Rs 100 as a consultation fee while some “killers” in white uniform indulge in all kinds of malpractices. Medical negligence is very common these days, and there are medical specialists playing with the lives of the elderly people.

In a backward and underdeveloped country we can’t have a highly advanced health care system except for the metropolitan cities where we have highly trained doctors.


If we can’t have bigger and state-of-the art hospitals we can at least have a fleet of ambulances in every city hospital. An ambulance should be one a phone call away.

It is a well-known fact that most of the well-known doctors or specialists have chosen not to go in for government service or have taken premature retirement from government service and are now associated with private nursing homes. It is also a well-known fact that the haves of society go to private nursing homes in search of better health care and sensitive doctors while the have-nots go to government hospitals whether they come out dead or alive.

The stationery printed in government hospitals is nearly 50 years old and is sufficient to tell the tale of the hospital. The equipment and the machinery used is antique and is fit enough to be sold as junk, but unfortunately it is used as life-saving equipment for the poor. Mr Badal promised to make Punjab the California of India but that utopian dream is yet to be realised in the health sphere. It is time to have tough administrators with a no non-sense approach who can check the deteriorating health care system in Punjab.

The dichotomy between the government and private health care should be totally obliterated. This is the right time to strike, otherwise the see-saw battle between the two will continue and the sufferers will be the sick.


Challenge before universities

The universities in India have a great responsibility, much greater than that of their counterparts in developed countries like the USA where under the leadership of professors of eminence these are constantly engaged in providing splendid examples of development in various fields. In India, on the contrary and to the bad luck of its people, an expanding “election” politics, increasing corruption and a bad policy of appointing deliberately (particularly at regional universities) undeserving persons as Vice-Chancellors, who very often use their power to stifle voices of dissent, has given birth to village universities that hardly continue to grow, producing genuine research and helping the country change for the better and strengthening awakening.

In a developing country like India — with all its handicaps such as massive poverty, unemployment among the educated, lack of sound planning, recurrence of worst communal violence, brutalisation of citizens, misuse of funds, politicisation of unorganised and gullible masses, muzzling of the voice of the Press under pressure from the executive, lack of potential to use its resources, unnecessary interference of the government in the functioning of educational institutions, including universities — universities are faced with a great challenge. It has to be an integrated self-structuring system, always in movement and flux, and a place (with something of universal) that can provide the country a promising opportunity for generating influential research and provocative knowledge.

All this is possible if the government pays sincere and serious attention to the understanding of the vibrant purpose of a university and gives up a grotesquely mistaken zealousness for appointing retired secretaries or military officers as Vice-Chancellors.

If a university (whose role in India has now expanded significantly in yet another manner that concern the public) is “owned” and controlled by a joint secretary or a military officer who lacks research ability, teaching potential, and power of academic imagination — it will quickly be uprooted from its basic purpose.

In a system plagued by corruption of every hue, every university must have honest academicians, excellent researchers and able teachers. Rather than politicise the functioning of universities the government should help them by appointing people of high research calibre. Good administrators, though needed, have a little part to play in building up the image of a university.

It is quite amazing why the government thinks that university professors need to be ruled by joint secretaries or military people. In a personal communication at Yale (USA) a professor told me that there was no barrier between a university professor and a prophet. However, becoming (thanks to the UGC career advancement scheme) a university professor here is quite an interesting story.

Professor of English and Dean,
Faculty of Languages, GND University.


Refreshing verdict

The Tribune report “Retire unfit staff: SC” (June 28), highlighting a pertinent verdict by a Division Bench of the country’s apex court, comes like a blast of fresh air. What a refreshing verdict and how timely, indeed!

No doubt, things on the country’s administrative set-up seem to have reached a stage where services of government or semi-government employees should be regulated in such a way that only such persons who could render useful service be continued and not those indolent, infirm and with doubtful integrity, reputation or utility and that periodical exercise of reviewing or evaluating the utility was required for better administration and for removal of the deadwood or persons having doubtful integrity/reputation, as the court has opined. The matter can be ignored/delayed only at the country’s peril. To my mind, it seems high time for the government to re-orient its policy governing the administration/administrative set-up in the light of the apex court’s observations. That way alone lies the salvation of the country.

Ambota (Una)

The obsession: 3 aspects

This refers to Mr J. L. Gupta’s write-up, “The obsession” (June 27). Firstly, the writer cannot turn a blind eye to modernisation and just try to cling on to the badshahi cult started by the British. It is human nature to try to dominate others. The writer has found a steno, and those who do not find a steno domesticate a dog to feel superior.

Secondly, we all commit mistakes. To error is human and not to error is God, not human. Even small mistakes put us in the wrong, like typing mistakes. The ego sweats. We feel discomfort, perhaps anxiety, and we hasten to repair the narcissistic wound. Psychologically, it is a normal and legitimate condition. A poet rightly says in this regard, “No man is an island in himself”.

Thirdly, the writer’s steno might be troubled with the lack of confidence, information, recognition or familiarity with words at the time of making mistakes. But this has been defined as obsession, monomania, etc.

After reading the article I am sure the writer is egoistically bent on proving himself out of nothing. There is no-sense other than non-sense that can be extracted out of such writing.

Herbert Spencer writes rightly, “Hero worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom”.


Wages of indecisiveness

This has reference to Ms Tavleen Singh’s article, “When will privatisation finally come” (June 24). The writer has beautifully, depicted the reason for chronic losses for our public sector units. Unfortunately, we are caught in such a situation that there seems to be no solution to the problem.

Disinvestment over the years has been a very slow process due to various political compulsions and indecisiveness. The custodians of the public sector use these units for their selfish interests.

The public sector, created as a result of investment of thousands of crores of rupees, is so badly managed that there is going to come a time when there will be no takers for these units even for peanuts. This is the price we have to pay for indecisiveness and to sustain a corrupt system. May God help us.



“Match-fixing”, currently a hot topic, made me design a parody of a famous song in the movie “Sangam” to mirror the discomfiture of cricket fans:

Score score naa raha
Match match naa raha
Cricket, hamein tera aitbaar naa raha.

Varanasi Cantt. 


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