The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PMO lessons for ‘straying’ Shotgun

New Delhi, Dec. 21: The Prime Minister’s Office is trying to bail out Shatrughan Sinha by reeling out a string of suggestions that could give the health and family welfare ministry and its minister a facelift.

In a letter to Sinha, PMO official Sudheendra Kulkarni has urged the actor turned Union minister to undertake a “project” or an “initiative” that could refurbish the health sector.

“You will agree that we have done nothing big in the health sector so far to project either as an achievement or even as an initiative. Shatrughanji, you have an opportunity to change this reality,” Kulkarni wrote.

Sinha has been drawing increasing flak for not taking his job seriously and going on international junkets.

There is speculation that Sinha may lose his job if he continues in a frivolous manner. Even Panchajanya, BJP’s Hindi mouthpiece, has put a knife into Sinha for showing off an unbecoming filmi flamboyance and little interest in his portfolio.

The PMO has now decided to nudge Sinha into action. “The public image of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee is he is a caring and compassionate Prime Minister. It should be our effort to further reinforce this image with a great new initiative in healthcare,” Kulkarni writes.

His suggestions include putting together a group of experts from “within and without the ministry” who can come up with an action plan to implement the National Health Policy.

The policy, Kulkarni wrote, hasn’t created “much excitement among the common people”. “Let us develop at least one hospital and one medical college in each of the underdeveloped states of India — Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa.”

He has further urged Sinha to “tighten” monitoring of the centrally-sponsored health schemes in states. “Senior officers should be asked to seriously look at the implementation of the schemes and, where necessary, make a loud noise,” Kulkarni wrote.

A most common grievance is the failure of some state governments to use resources and schemes properly.

Kulkarni, in his letter, touched on most aspects of health, from medical education and implementation of health schemes to Ayurveda medicine.

“We should remove all unnecessary restrictions on the expansion of reputed medical education institutions so that they become world class,” Kulkarni wrote. “We should also remove restrictions on their attracting foreign and Indian diaspora students in large numbers.”

There are several recommendations for boosting Ayurveda so that the department of Indian systems of medicines becomes dynamic.

“Indian systems of medicine should be promoted with the same vigour and conviction as shown by China when it promoted its own system of traditional medicine,” Kulkarni wrote.

He referred to the Indian Railways in his letter too. “In my small way I have been working with the railways on a major initiative called ‘Operation Cleanliness’, which the Prime Minister announced on August 15. I request you to make your ministry a partner of Indian Railways in this programme,” Kulkarni wrote.

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