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PM finger on Bimaru pulse

New Delhi, Jan. 17: The Prime Minister is going to use the rod to punish errant “students” who consistently fail to score in crucial subjects such as health and population.

At a meeting with the chief ministers of Bimaru states yesterday, Atal Bihari Vajpayee told them he would check their report cards every six months to assess their performance in the spheres of health and population stabilisation.

Vajpayee had summoned the chief ministers of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (Bimaru) to express his displeasure on their failure to implement a population stabilisation policy, improve healthcare, and arrest infant and maternal mortality rates.

The union health ministry was armed with a long list of complaints against the “truant” states which are refusing to invest either money or energy in health services.

All the chief ministers, except Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, showed up at 7, Race Course Road and asked for additional financial inputs from the Centre.

Their report cards, however, showed underutilisation of funds allotted and innumerable vacancies at the health centres. Bihar, it was found, had not put into place a population policy and the figures from the other states were far from optimistic.

Health minister Shatrughan Sinha arrived 20 minutes late for the meeting and read from a written script.

Vajpayee clearly told the chief ministers they would be jeopardising other “development” goals if they did not pull up their socks and begin tackling the problems of the health sector.

The Prime Minister said he would call a meeting of the Bimaru chief ministers every six months to assess the implementation of health and population schemes.

Digvijay Singh, Mayavati and Rabri Devi assured Vajpayee that from now on, they would “personally” review the implementation of family welfare programmes. And they would send a progress report to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the health and family welfare ministry.

For Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati, Vajpayee had an additional warning. Polio, he reminded her, has returned to her state in a big way despite the national pulse polio programme.

Vajpayee urged the chief ministers to put special emphasis on the universal immunisation programmes so that these reached every child.

According to representatives of donor agencies such as the Unicef, political will is needed to tone up health and population programmes.

Vajpayee’s initiative, they said, is a welcome step in this direction. The turnaround, however, would come only after the state governments paid sufficient heed to this sphere.

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