Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, has placed all systems in the country’s central hospitals, including the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences, under critical review to end systemic and symptomatic corruption. “In my first 90 days in office hardly a day has passed without inquiring into the transparency of the ministry and its outposts. Very soon the results are going to be in the public domain,” the Minister said.
He elaborated, “There are many aspects to corruption in hospitals which as a medico I know exist. If money is made in the allocation of beds or as kickbacks from suppliers, it is sleaze. What is equally corrupt is the silent practice of reserving beds and facilities for employees or VIPs. I intend rectifying both these forms of corruption.”
The re-profiling of Mr Sanjeev Chaturvedi, the Deputy Secretary posted at AIIMS with the powers of a Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), has generated a storm in some quarters. To the Minister what was moot was the anomaly in the very posting of a CVO without the sanction of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and preserving the sanctity of the institution. “Mr Chaturvedi’s designation as CVO was opposed by the CVC in 2012 and 2013. Disregarding the CVC’s directives was part of a design to weaken the institution. In 2011, the then government had tried to demolish public faith in the CVC by appointing a tainted bureaucrat as its head. This appointment had been struck down by the Supreme Court. I therefore did my bit to restore the image of the CVC”, Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
He said it was regrettable that a political slant was given to the reprofiling of Mr Chaturvedi’s job. “He has neither been suspended, nor transferred,” the Minister clarified. Besides, the Minister was conscious that the systems at AIIMS needed to become more transparent. Patients who travel great distances need to be informed before starting out the precise bed vacancy position, or the availability of the dialysis machines, or an operation date. AIIMS is a mini-township in need of its own e-governance. The Minister said that shortly after assuming office, he has personally inspected AIIMS and all the central hospitals in New Delhi. He also visited four of the six new AIIMS and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) with a view to suggesting new ways to improve their services. “I had stated on my first day in office that I will impose 500 percent transparency and adopt a zero tolerance for corruption,” he added.