Do something, this one time
Sir — Jaya Bachchan, be it wittingly or in a state of pure elation, has ended up making a complete fool of herself as the new chairperson of the Uttar Pradesh film board (“Boost to movies, blow to Mayavati”, Oct 25). She started off by declaring her ignorance of the existence of the film board till she took over. This tactlessness leaves much room for questioning her competence to perform the responsibility she has been entrusted with. While discussing her plan of action, she went on to say that as a first step, she would entice writers and filmmakers of Uttar Pradesh who have chosen Mumbai as their work destination, back to the state to promote the film industry there. The problem, Mr Chairperson, is probably not so much the absence of talent as lack of funds. The lady will be useful to the board and the people of the state if she can rope in the Bachchans’ relaunched firm into channelling some money into the state. With much fanfare she has promised that for “Mulayam Singh Yadav, I can do anything, anytime”. Why not start with the ABCL in Mulayamdom'
Poulomi Chatterjee, Calcutta
Sir — Many senior leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), including Jyoti Basu, reportedly feel that Surjya Kanta Mishra is overworked and should shed a portion of his workload (“Party bid to ease Mishra’s burden”, Oct 23). This comes after a string of horrific deaths in government-run hospitals over the last few days. One would perhaps like to remind Basu that all that is happening in state-run hospitals today was not entirely unknown during his tenure as the chief minister of West Bengal. There is no reason to believe that matters have suddenly taken a turn for the worse after his departure. Medical negligence has plagued West Bengal during the entire period of Left Front rule and, probably, even prior to that.
One major difference between now and then is greater awareness among the people because of the media, which again has made them more vocal about the malpractices. The media has done a commendable job by reporting incidents of medical lapses more frequently. But more reports of hospital indiscipline do not necessarily mean that Prasanta Sur had done a better job than Mishra.
Kunal Saha, Columbus, US
Sir — The former state health minister, Prasanta Sur, has done us a service by pointing to a possible reason for the dismal state of healthcare — an overworked health minister. There are over 2,000 government hospitals of different categories in West Bengal, and it is only natural that any one person might find it difficult to monitor their performance satisfactorily. Worse, Surjya Kanta Mishra also handles the panchayat portfolio. It is strange that a party which has been in power for so long should fail to anticipate the problem.
Ideally, there should be more deputies to assist Mishra — perhaps one for every 100 hospitals. There will automatically be an improvement in standards. The minister should also be made more accountable to the people. Forming sub-committees, despite the presence of a state committee on health, to seek explanations from Mishra will serve no purpose.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Sir — The recent spate of deaths, mostly of poor and hapless patients, due to medical negligence reflects the fact that medical services are getting confined to the rich and influential. Doctors and the institutions they are affiliated with find it easy to extort money from the rich and therefore remain oblivious of their social responsibilities. The deaths of six-month-old Shabana Parveen, then Susmita Biswas and Santosh Hela are proof of the callous and indifferent attitude of the medical fraternity in the city today. The state government should stop waxing eloquent about its commitment to the poor.
A lot has been written about negligence in hospitals. Despite the furore, it is disconcerting to see the government take only minor steps in censuring and punishing the errant doctors and hospital staff.
Ramesh Agarwal, Kurseong
Sir — The surgeon superintendent of Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay, his deputy and some other medical officers have now been transferred as a punishment (“CM punishes hospital guilty with transfer”, Oct 24). It goes without saying that this is only an eyewash. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should know that discipline cannot be restored simply by punishing senior doctors or officers. Class IV employees and clerks dominate hospitals today, mostly under the patronage of aggressive unions. What does Bhattacharjee propose to do about them'
Sudarsan Nandi, Midnapore
Sir — Too many people are paying the price of being poor in West Bengal. I have been harassed and physically assaulted by the officials of Calcutta Medical Hospital, especially the deputy superintendent, for requesting a correction in a railway concession certificate issued by them, despite my informing them that I was a physically challenged person. After two weeks, I have still not got the necessary correction. The error compelled me to travel without a concession.
Md Sajid Ali, Calcutta
Sir — Following the celebrations of the International Day for the Elderly on October 1, the letters, “Old and weary” (Oct 19), have brought to focus some of the problems faced by the increasing number of elderly people. The elderly today are often shunted out of joint family privileges and left to hanker for the healing touch and concern of the youth, who seem to be in hot pursuit of the future. Could an association of the elderly by themselves provide the mutual care and concern that the members need'
Experiments have been made in our city and elsewhere to form such associations. Take for instance the Indian Association for Retired Persons and Dignity Foundation with branches in several locations. These associations have regular offices manned by volunteers, monthly meetings and programmes as well as professional help in matters relating to health, taxation, investments and so on. However, the much-awaited events for this elderly company are still based on a fresh infusion of youth in the form of cultural programmes, get-togethers, family outings, and festivals. The “old and the lonely” eagerly await and welcome such occasions that provide the interaction and joyful participation. Once we have evolved a social consensus on the significance of mutual interaction between the old and the young, we can really celebrate the Day of the Elderly.
Laxmi Parasuram, Calcutta
Sir — The excerpts from the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing currently being published by The Telegraph, brings to mind certain problems confronting the aged. Life expectancy has increased worldwide, thereby increasing the percentage of the elderly in society. But the changing situation is making it more difficult for these people to continue living comfortably and meaningfully.
The only concession to this group from the government of India has been the recent introduction of a pension policy which is restricted to only one person in an entire family. But the sum assured by the scheme is too meagre and does not take into account the change in the consumer price index. The sum is fixed for the entire life time, as opposed to government pension. Meanwhile, family expenses continue to go up daily. Even the premium for health insurances increases with age. A new high court verdict has added fuel to fire by empowering the daughters-in-law to live separately from parents-in-law, a move which would deny the old any financial help from their sons.
The governments should form a ministry for the aged exclusively devoted to provide some practical respite to these people so that they can remain useful to society.
Asit Kumar Mitra, Calcutta