Sunday, June 14, 2009

Justice to the poor at last! NMMC standing committee chairman Sandeep Naik get 10% reservation policy for the poor approved

Better late than never – that’s what NMMC Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik seems to have practiced in the case of getting the 10% reservation policy for the poor activated in the NMMC – Hiranandani Super Specialty tie up. Fulfilling the promise that NMMC of getting super specialty medical services for the poor available free of cost at the NMMC Hospital, Standing Committee Chairman brought the proposal for the reservation policy and got it approved at a special general body meet.

Fortis Super Specialty was to make super specialty and additional medial services accessible to the poor. But it’s been months the Hiranandani – Fortis Super Specialty went functional but the NMMC’s administration showed clear apathy and neglect in presenting the revised policy for referring poor patients to the Hiranandani – Fortis Super Specialty Hospital. We had met Sandeep Thakur – city’s own lone crusader for public issues.

Sandeep Thakur had said that the delay could be intentional to benefit the private parties. In his defense Commissioner Vijay Nahata had said that says that on their part the administration presented the proposal for forming the policy based on the agreement signed but if the committee did not approve the proposal, it’s not his fault. He however, assured us that the administration would present the proposal in following week’s standing committee meet.

However, NMMC Commissioner Vijay Nahata failed to keep his word as the administration did not bring the proposal in the next week’s Standing Committee meet either. When we asked the Commissioner the same, he lamely said that the administration needs more time.

While the Commissioner failed to keep his word twice, the corporators were facing flak for keeping mum on the issue. But two corporators Namdeo Bhagat and Shivram Patil proved that they were not thick skinned like the rest as they raised the issue in the weekly Standing Committee meet of May 27.

In the Standing Committee meet of May 27, corporators Namdeo Bhagat and Shivram Patil raised the issue of the 10% reservation policy for poor patients Fortis – Hiranandani hospital. Namdeo Bhagat attacked the administration for the delay in complete sarcasm questioning why the administration had shown haste in beginning the hospital without taking the benefits due to NMMC from the tie-up. Chairman Sandeep Naik announced that they would convene a special general body meet and formulate the policy by June 10.

On June 9, a special general body meeting was called at the NMMC HQ. The proposal was brought in the name of the Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik. Members presented participated in a healthy debate giving suggestions for the criteria drafted for the 10% reservation of beds for the poor in the Fortis – Hiranandani Hospital. For once even the administration’s response was enthusiastic as the Commissioner accepted some significant suggestions made by corporators. After an hour of suggestions and deliberations, the proposal was approved by the general body meeting. Corporator Vithal More voiced disappointment over the delay that the administration exhibited in getting the revised proposal.

Several corporators including Vithal More credited their Chairman for bringing it to the general body for approval. Social activist Sandeep Thakur echoed the feelings of tax paying citizens of Navi Mumbai as he welcomed the approval of the policy. He added that the administration needs to implement the policy in the same spirit as it has been presented on paper.

The 10% reservation policy has been brought to make super specialty medical services accessible to the poor free of cost but there is still concern over the prices of the consumables that are as high as the operation cost. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the Chairman Sandeep Naik has called for the administration to fix the rates of consumables at par with charitable hospitals.

Further to ensure that implementation is transparent and successful, Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik says that they have called for every three months auditing of the policy. This would help study the lacunae that will surface only after implementation. He says that the 10% reservation policy is the right of the poor and underprivileged, that’s why they intend to keep the policy open for discussion. Sandeep Thakur welcomed the suggestion of auditing the implementation of the policy.

The approval of the general body meeting has opened the doors of Fortis – Hiranandani Hospital for the poor and weak to avail affordable super specialty medical services. Citizens from across the city welcomed the decision. Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik had made the promise of making super specialty medical services available for the poor on January 26, 2006 during the official ceremony for the public private partnership – three years later, his younger son Sandeep Naik kept the promise made by his father to the citizens of Navi Mumbai.

Will the new proposed handicap training centure become another white elephant for NMMC?
The NMMC Standing Committee approved the bid of Unique Construction Corporation for constructing the training and education center for the handicapped in Sector 30 A, Vashi at a cost of Rs. 4.25 Crores. The proposal was approved amidst concerns that parents of disabled children and organizations working for persons with disabilities should have been called for a hearing session before finalizing the plans for a Handicap Training Center of this magnitude. Members of the Standing Committee have also demanded the appointment of a capable administrator for this project.

NMMC is going to build a landmark project that perhaps no other municipal administration in the country has so far for students with different abilities. The corporation approved the bid to construct the first phase of the handicap training center with state of the art educational and training aids for the blind, dumb, deaf, mentally and physically challenged and other students with different abilities. The center will be built in Sector 30 A, Vashi. While all members welcomed this historic landmark project, several concerns that should have been discussed earlier were brought up at this Standing Committee meet. NGOs and persons with disabilities met Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik and gave appeal letters stating disappointment that parents of disabled children and organizations working for persons with disabilities should have been called for a hearing session before finalizing the plans for a Handicap Training Center of this magnitude.

NGOs working for persons with disabilities and parents of special children also met the committee’s member Shivram Patil with the same appeal. However, the Commissioner explained to the members that the appeal of the NGOs and others was just a conspiracy of private special schools. He informed the members that NMMC provides everything free of cost for special students in their school. On the other hand private institute charge a hefty sum and the vested interests in private schools dread the new NMMC Handicap Training Center.

With the Commissioner’s explanation, the members unanimously agreed that the proposal should be passed. The Chairman Sandeep Naik said that the project was a commendable and needed initiative but however appealed to the administration to invite persons with disabilities and their parents and guardians for a session to initiate debate and suggestions about the requirements of the handicapped, so that they too have a say in the developing of the center and are informed of the facilities to be provided in the same. Another significant suggestion was made by member Namdeo Bhagat who said that a project of this magnitude for special children needed a qualified official to handle it. Hinting that the project is being made without an administrator of the caliber to work in the area of special children, he asked the administration to get such an official for the project.

Standing Committee Chairman Sandeep Naik backed the suggestion of Namdeo Bhagat. Chairman Sandeep Naik said that the members will see to it that they get a qualified administrator to run the first-of-its-kind Handicap Center for Special Children at Sector 30, Vashi sooner than later. However, Commissioner Vijay Nahata did not seem keen to this suggestion made by the Standing Committee stating that he had the best team to run the Handicap Training Center and the Commissioner would heading the project at any point in time so there was no need to get any other official.

It’s unfortunate that NGOs woke up so late with their concerns about the training center as the proposal was first approved by the general body. Beyond any doubt, it requires an administrator and teachers with skill and ability to run a center for special children and while this looks like good beginning, it will be a big challenge to get the center running as shown on paper with many recurring cost and specially trained professionals. Otherwise, this project too will become another white elephant for NMMC.

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