A long overdue step
What West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said while introducing the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill 2017, in the State Assembly on Friday will find a ready response in every heart. Easy access to healthcare and education are the two basic needs of the people. Unfortunately in a profit-driven society, both hospitals and educational institutions have become money-spinning machines. The CM’s speech left no one in any doubt that she was fully acquainted with the whole range of malpractices prevailing in private hospitals and that she was bent on putting an end to it. In the same speech, she also hinted at bringing some control on private educational institutions which are more interested in minting easy money than in imparting good education.
She appealed to the members to pass the Bill unanimously. Fortunately, the Congress and the Left responded to her appeal and the Bill was unanimously passed. The corruption that grew in the health sector during the three and a half decades of Left rule is widely known. Government hospitals became centres of trade union activity of the CPM rather than of medical treatment. The mess prevailing in the government hospitals created the fertile ground for the mushroom growth of private hospitals and nursing homes. Healthcare became a highly profitable industry. Patients could be exorbitantly charged with no one asking – or daring to ask – any questions.
The same situation prevails in the field of education also, with this difference that apart from the proprietors of the private schools and colleges, there were the students unions of the ruling party to fleece the students. Donations, capitation fees and many other fees had to be paid in lakhs. Even then no student could hope to get entry into a school or a college without ‘donating’ a hefty sum to the student union of the ruling party. This practice continues even today. Clashes between rival factions of the TMCP, the student body of the ruling party of the day, have become very frequent. In most cases the ‘donations’ exacted from the students at the time of admission are the cause of the fracas. Repeated warnings by the TMC supremo have not brought about any discernible change in the situation. She has to act now against those student leaders who are in no mood to listen to her.