A bed with a view

Read a startling article about hospitals in affluent India. Gone are the days of grim corridors and harried and unpleasant nurses. Today's hospitals for the rich boast of valets and butlers, housekeeping and flat screen TVs, gourmet food, WIFI connection and even a microwave in the room. The chefs can prepare the best creme brulee and buttered asparagus. The common areas look more like malls than hospital waiting rooms with coffee shops, book shops and even cinema halls for those who need to wait. All you need is a bottomless pocket! A suite in one of the state-of-the-art medical hotel can cost you 75000Rs a night. But this is for the chosen few! Read the article! It is quite an eye opener. Such hospitals have a plethora of doctors that you can avail of!

At the other end of the spectrum are the State run hospitals in smaller cities where getting  a doctor is nothing short of a miracle. Recently a one year child all set to go home had to have his intravenous line removed. A doctor or at best a nurse should have done this, but in the case of this little boy the task was performed by a sweeper who while cutting the bandage chopped off the boy's little finger. In the ensuing panic he threw the finger in the bin. Strangely the finger was never found.

In April 2008, the Government launched with great fanfare the  Rashtriya Swasthya Beema Yojna (RSBY) scheme an insurance scheme for the poor. The scheme was lauded as path breaking. According to this scheme private hospitals could claim up to 30,000 rupees for treating patients who cannot afford expensive procedures. How wonderful if it worked. But darling this in India where schemes for the poor are created to benefit anyone but the true beneficiaries. Suddenly across India there was a exponential rise in hysterectomies. Any woman complaining of a stomach ache was 'advised' to have her uterus removed. The uterus scam ran into million of dollars. You see this intervention is the costliest under the scheme and thus the more hysterectomies the more moolah for nursing homes and everyone else. Never mind the young women who lose their uterus, you see they are poor and that seems to explain each and every aberration.

And talking of aberrations what do you say of the Minister whose reaction to a farmer fasting to seek water to be released was to say in a meeting: what does he expect us to do. Should we urinate in the dam to fill them? I have no words to express my contempt. But it is once again the proof of what the rulers think of the poor, the very poor whose votes they seek every 5 year with false promises.

What kind of a country are we? We cannot provide drinking water, basic food let alone health care and education to the poor. We watch in catatonic torpor as motivated legislation to supposedly alleviate poverty, education, provide health, employment are passed by our legislators knowing very well that they are only yet another way to scams and corruption. We know that it is our money but do not bother to raise our voice perhaps because of our cynicism or because our loved ones are fed, educated and can access the best with a view!

Seems though that some are finally waking up from their slumber as at last the media seems to echo what has been written in many posts of this blog. In the recent issue of Tehelka magazine, there is a disturbing and almost frightening article on the actual state of the young population we sow like to showcase as an asset. It is said that by the end of the decade, just 7 short years down the line the average age of our population will be 29! A young work force could be a huge asset. But that is where the story ends. Of the 430 million that form our work force now only 30 work in the organised sector. The question of where the additional 480 million that will join this work force in 2 decades will go remains unanswered.

But the reality is alarming. The story of this so called youth force is handicapped from they day of conception. One out of every five child in India is of low birth weight and over 40 percent of children in India are underweight and stunted. Scarily, while 70 percent of children below five years are anaemic, only 43 percent of children below the age of two receive all their immunisation, compared to 90 percent in Bangladesh. 5000 of such children will die every day if we do not act. For those who make it pass the 5 year milestone the story does not change. If they do make it to the portals of education we have ensured that they will fail. Recent statistics show that 60 percent of the children in Class V cannot read at a Class II level and 75 percent cannot complete simple division sums. While the government pats itself on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for having achieved near universal enrolment in primary education (96 percent), there is in fact an 80 percent dropout by Class XII. So, of the 27 million children who annually enrol in primary schools across the country, only 5.4 million make it to Class XII. (Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) report).

The schools are abysmal and the teachers worse. We need to recruit @ 250 000 teachers per annum. We do not have enough candidates as school teaching is very low on the job preference list. And should you make it pass school then the third rate higher teaching shops that have proliferated ensure that you are not job worthy and where are the jobs anyway!

We need to go back to the drawing board and make our education skill based. Not everyone is academically oriented so where he/she to learn some useful skill whilst still in school, he/she could get employment. And perhaps then drop out rates could be contained.

But this is all a pipe dream as we know that our rulers are not truly interested in changing things. The young of poor India have been let down by those who rest in their bed with a view while little children still run the risk of having their fingers chopped!