Health: Following TNC Dictates
In recent months in West Bengal there is a hue and cry over the health
system of West Bengal. Everyday news of maltreatment, death due to wrong
diagnosis, ill maintained government hospitals are on the front pages of
newspapers. The West Bengal Government led by the CPI(M) pretends that
all is normal with inhuman coolness. Neither the big business-backed
newspapers, the opposition and ruling parties seem to be serious to
bring out that the core cause for poor medical facilities is nor the
fall out of the globalisation-IMF World Bank policies. Still all these
parliamentary parties are pretending to be blind to what those
imperialist-aided agencies are prescribing for West Bengal!
Health has become one of the important sectors necessary for a smooth
operation of imperialist capital. However health care is one of the
biggest industries in the world, worth $2.8 trillion (Rs. 1175,00,000
crores). In India the total business is worth Rs. 73,000 crores with a
growth rate of Rs. 8000 crores a year (13%). The total money circulating
in this sector is more than the total turnover of the 12 top companies
including Hindustan Lever, ITC & Reliance.49
Obviously, it is evident that in the health sector the imperialist
sharks will endeavour for maximisation of for profits. After Davos, the
World Bank is directly pursuing the states, negotiating with them, to
carry on its agenda.
The government of West Bengal has borrowed Rs. 701 crores from the World
Bank to revamp the State’s health system. The World Bank has chosen West
Bengal as one of the three states to carry on the pilot project; along
with Punjab and Karnataka.
Recently the Germans, World Bank, DFIF of Great Britain, have proposed
to revamp the West Bengal health system according to their terms. The
Central health ministry is working overtime to facilitate the smooth
handover of the West Bengal health scenario. Sushma Swaraj has rightly
stated there is no policy regarding the health question. A politics of
apolitics is actually a surrender to imperialists’ dictates.
The State government has selected 251 block primary health centres and
sent the list to the German government. Now it is settled that GTZKFW,
an organisation under the German government will provide 170 crores for
the development of the aforesaid health centres. In other centres the
World Bank and DFID of Britain will extend necessary aid. In the mean
time the World Bank has granted Rs. 750 crores for the West Bengal
health sector. Now, under the background of a collapsing health system,
it is decided that the state and central government will form a joint
action plan. On the last 7th November the central health secretary has
stated that the central government would provide Rs. 16 crores as aid to
revamp the West Bengal health system.
It is an eye wash, that the government of West Bengal has decided that
all primary health centres should have 30 beds. But, considering the
sorry state of affairs it is decided that the primary health centres
should have a minimum of 10 beds, the government has also decided to set
up two medical colleges, where there will be paid seats for the NRIs and
high fees for others. These are to be formed only to fill the
government’s exchequer, thereby paving the way for the privatisation of
the entire health system. Now, despite the government’s verbal
opposition to the World Bank policies, those very same policies are
implemented on various excuses.
‘Decentralisation’ in the administration of the health system is being
hijacked in order to implement World Bank dictates.
The government of West Bengal has planned full autonomy for hospitals.
It simply implies that the concerned hospitals will have to collect its
own funds for its operation i.e. privatisation in all spheres of
treatment. Now, polyclinic centres with high fees, various pathological
tests are conducted inside the hospital premises by private business
houses. Bed fees etc. are so high that sometime the hospitals are at par
with nursing homes with regard to fees.
The government of West Bengal also planned that the panchayat presidents
look after the local health centres or hospitals. The panchayats have a
very small resource base. But, the above decision is tantamount to the
fact that those panchayat-supervised health centres will soon be
privatised and at the service of the imperialists.
Now, joint ventures like AMRI, and private hospitals, like Ruby, Appolos
etc., are partronised by the West Bengal Government. Nursing homes are
comming up in increasing numbers with no government supervision.
Contractualisation of medical and non medical staff of government
hospitals are started under directives of the government.
Thus the health sector is for sale to serve the imperialist aided
policies of globalisation. In the near future, private insurance, like
medi-claim, will be part of the privatiisation drive of the health