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Rural Health scam in UP claims more scalps
The suspension of 20 doctors in Uttar Pradesh on June 11 for their alleged involvement in the Rs 5,700-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam is likely to unearth the involvement of more medical professionals.
The doctors have been suspended on charges of embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 800 crores by producing fake transport bills. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had already filed three chargesheets against the accused.
Action has been taken against a Chief Medical Officer (CMO), three medical officers, 14 superintendents, a District Tuberculosis Officer and a District Project Manager.
The NRHM is an ambitious Central government initiative launched in 2005 to bring about a dramatic improvement in the health of Indian citizens, particularly the poor in rural areas. Key among its objectives are reducing child mortality and improving health of the mother.
This scheme, stands out from previous national schemes in that it empowered officials at the grassroots level to take crucial decisions on the generous funds allotted to it by the Centre.
The scam hit the headlines following the murder of two CMOs in Lucknow in 2010. It may be recalled that in the recent past six officials involved in the scheme died under controversial circumstances. Earlier this month, the residence of the former Health Minister, Mr Anant Mishra, was raided by the CBI while probing one of the murders.
In fact, in February, 2012, Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, had openly charged the then Mayawati government of siphoning off these funds.
Irregularities under the scheme were detected in Madhya Pradesh too. The unfortunate part of this scam is that it is tainting the name of the entire scheme, which is being implemented extremely well in the Southern States.
The systemic irregularities, a part of every major government initiative, is the chief reason for the scam. While the move to decentralise decision making is a laudable one, the lack of transparency and accountability in the decisions taken has led to the failure of this initiative.
Unless an openness and auditing is brought about in every scheme, such murky scandals will continue to hit the headlines.
By Juwairia Mekhri and Manishka Soorya
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