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Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Petitions tables report against LG aiding sabotage of Government Hospitals

New Delhi: A detailed investigation by The Committee on Petitions of the Delhi Legislative Assembly has revealed a deliberate attempt to sabotage the healthcare services of Delhi by certain officers at the behest of the Delhi LG. The committee has made a number of observations based on the responses filed by government departments and the depositions of officers, government records, and the deliberations of the committee meetings. The committee had presented a report titled ‘Sabotaging The Functioning Of OPD Counters In Delhi Government Hospitals At The Behest Of The Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor Of Delhi’ before the house on Wednesday. It found that there were manufactured bureaucratic hurdles which led to inordinate delay in the grant of approvals for the invitation of tenders for Data Entry Operators in OPD counters at hospitals across Delhi, directly impacting the marginalised citizens of Delhi in need of medical services. The delay caused by the Finance Department in the invitation of tender had resulted in abject chaos at hospitals, leading to lacs of poor patients not being able to receive proper medical care and treatment.

The committee has now requested the President of India and Union Home Ministry to take cognisance and take appropriate action against the LG and Chief Secretary. The Role of the Chief Secretary in derailing projects is under the scanner, he has been directed to submit an action taken report on the Committee’s Recommendations in 30 days. After seeing the report, MLAs demanded the suspension of Chief Secretary, Health Secretary & Finance Secretary for their wilful negligence and entered the well of the house in protest, causing the Speaker to adjourn the session.

Giving details about the report MLA Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj said, “OPD counters play a vital role in managing patients; the system was deliberately tampered with before MCD elections to put CM in bad light. The Health and Finance Secretaries moved files between each other, ordered a manpower study and OPD Counter workers were abruptly removed. Abruptly terminating the services of the DEOs in the OPD Counters at the hospitals inevitably resulted in chaotic conditions at the hospitals. MLAs found security guards and sanitation workers running OPD counters at hospitals in absence of DEOs. A decade old system was deliberately brought to a standstill. The study ordered by the finance dept revealed no substantial recommendation but lacs of people were left to suffer.”

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Huge chaos caused in city hospitals because of some officers: Akhilesh Pati Tripathi

The Committee on Petitions of the Delhi Legislative Assembly presented its report on ‘Sabotaging The Functioning Of OPD Counters In Delhi Government Hospitals At The Behest Of The Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor Of Delhi’ on Wednesday. The report was tabled by Committee Chairman Shri Akhilesh Pati Tripathi. The members of the committee included Smt. Bandana Kumari, Shri B. S. Joon, Shri Dilip Kumar Pandey, Shri Jai Bhagwan, Shri Kartar Singh Tanwar, Shri Kuldeep Kumar, Shri Rajesh Gupta and Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj. Tabling the report before the house Shri Akhilesh Pati Tripathi said, “There has been a deliberate attempt to derail the healthcare system of Delhi. OPD Counters of several hospitals were shut without cause because of some officers. The computerisation of OPD counters that had been going on for a decade was brought to a standstill. This situation caused a huge chaos in the city. I request the house to take cognisance of this report and discuss it at length.”

Decade old system of DEOs deliberately brought to a standstill: Saurabh Bhardwaj

Committee member and MLA Shri Saurabh Bhardwaj presented a deep overview of the report before the house and discussed its proceedings, observations and recommendations. “The population bracket that visits government hospitals in Delhi consists of such people who can truly not afford private treatment due to its skyhigh costs. And this brings a large volume of patients to the hospitals every day. It is considered a huge achievement that the Delhi Government under the leadership of CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal managed to transform government hospitals in a manner that treatment became seamless and hassle-free. Free medications, free diagnostics, free operations and treatment is available at all our state hospitals.”

He added, “But to keep the system of government hospitals up and running OPD counters play a very vital role. When a patient enters a government hospital, they first go to the OPD counter and state their problem. As per their problem, the DEO prepares a computerised card for them and directs them towards the right doctor in the hospital. These DEOs are an important link in the chain. Given the nature of their work, they were supposed to get re-tendered in June- July 2022. All the hospitals sent their files to the Health Dept and its Secretary Amit Singla. He then sent it to the Finance Department where it reached Principal Secretary Finance AC Verma. But this is where a roadblock was placed in the process deliberately. The Principal Secretary Finance recommended an Administrative Reforms Study to ascertain the number of DEOs needed per hospital. In order to conduct the study, the hospitals were made to abruptly remove their existing DEOs. The question that arises here is what was the need for this study when the DEOs had been properly working for the last 10 years. Abruptly terminating the services of the DEOs in the OPD Counters at the hospitals inevitably resulted in chaotic conditions at the hospitals. Patients were left with no guidance and worse, were also misinformed leading to improper treatment and irreparable and financial loss to the patients and consequently the government as well.”

He continued, “Our MLAs went to the ground to check the situation. In LBS Hospitals and DCB Hospital they found security guards and sanitation workers sitting at the DEO desks. They were giving handwritten chits to the patients. The waiting time increased from 2 hours to 6-7 hours. The officials deliberately raised objections to it to bring everything to a standstill. Moreover the AR Study was completely frivolous because it gave recommendations like reducing or adding 1-1 counters at one hospital or the other. The system that was functioning properly for the last decade was deliberately tampered with. And this led to patients putting the government’s role into question, we saw patients lose trust in the CM, MLAs.”

Committee reported , “During the proceedings the Committee observed that the Chief Secretary, at the behest of the Lieutenant Governor, created an atmosphere of fear amongst the Departments of the Delhi Governments and actively prevented the officers from performing their duties. Though many aspersions have been cast at the role of the Lieutenant Governor in the stoppage of various welfare schemes in the Capital, the Committee would have been enlightened if there was a version available from Lieutenant Governor. However, taking deposition from the Lieutenant Governor is beyond the scope of this proceedings of the Committee on Petitions. The Committee members noted that the chaos in different departments of the Delhi Government was quite evident at the ground level and had been continuously reported by various newspapers in the last few months.”

The report concluded, “The silence of the Lieutenant Governor and his inaction against the officers who had orchestrated these hurdles and caused irreparable loss to the lacs of people in Delhi points towards tactical support to these officers for their misdeeds and apathy towards the suffering of the common man. Thus, the Committee has humbly requested the President of India and Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, to take cognisance of this report of the Committee on Petitions and take appropriate action against the Chief Secretary and the Lieutenant Governor.”

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MLAs enter the well, demand suspension of Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and Health Secretary

Upon being apprised of the findings of the report, the MLAs relayed a strong demand for the suspension of Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and Health Secretary. The MLAs took to protest against the three officers inside the house itself and entered the well while sloganeering in favour of their demands. The speaker then adjourned the proceedings of the house.

Officers reveal arm twisting, atmosphere of fear by Chief Secretary at behest of LG

In its report, the Committee noted that some members had informed the Committee of the fact that some officers had confided in them that they had been arm-twisted by the Chief Secretary at the behest of the Lieutenant Governor to create hurdles in the ongoing welfare works of the elected government. The Committee was shocked to see that even though the Chief Secretary agreed that there was negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of various senior officials in the matters discussed before the Committee, however, he had chosen not to take any action because, in his own words he said “Main Kiss Kiss par action Lu. Aise Toh neeche se upar sab par action lena padega” The Committee noted that this frivolous excuse by the Head of bureaucracy of Government of NCT of Delhi shows his connivance in creating hurdles in the functioning of welfare schemes in the last few months.

Officers in Health Department are being threatened that any kind of active role in the working of Mohalla Clinics can land them facing prosecution by CBI

The Committee decided to speak to officers individually by invoking provisions of confidential/secret depositions in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Legislative Assembly of NCT of Delhi. After speaking to many of these officers the committee deliberated and concluded the following – A. Many officers were threatened by the Chief Secretary at the behest of the Lieutenant Governor. B. One officer confided that he/she is so scared of Principal Secretary, Finance, Dr. A.C.Verma, that he/she is more comfortable sending a Whatsapp text to the Deputy Chief Minister rather than reporting an issue to Mr.A.C Verma. C. Officers in the Health Department are being threatened that any kind of active role in the working of Mohalla Clinics can land them facing prosecution by CBI.

Observations of the Committee:

From the scrutiny of the responses filed by the concerned Government departments and deposition of officers, Government records and the deliberations of the Committee meetings, the following observations are have been brought on record by the committee:

1. It is observed that some of the Officials of the Departments namely Mr.Amit Singla, Dr.A.C.Verma, Mr.Kulanand Joshi and Ms.Niharika Rai did not take the grave issues affecting patients in need of health services with adequate seriousness. However, as the Committee did not hear the submissions of Mr. Joshi and Ms. Niharika Rai on the issue, the Committee is not making any recommendations to take action against them at this stage.

2. There were manufactured bureaucratic hurdles which led to inordinate delay in the grant of approvals for the reinvitation of tenders for DEOs in OPD Counters at Hospitals across Delhi, directly impacting the marginalized citizens of Delhi in need of medical services.

3. The Committee observed that delay caused by the Finance Department in the reinvitation of tender had resulted in abject chaos at hospitals. This act by the Finance Department had led to lacs of poor patients not being able to receive proper medical care and treatment.

4. The Secretary, Health Department has been unable to satisfactorily answer as to why AR Study is required and when such a requirement was first intimated. The Secretary, Health Department has also failed to provide any satisfactory reason as to why no temporary arrangement was in place while the AR Study was pending.

5. The Principal Secretary, Finance Department, Dr. A.C.Verma has been unable to justify why no alternate arrangement was put in place to continue the services of the DEOs while the AR Study was pending. Further, the Finance Department was unable to give a satisfactory reason as to why AR study had suddenly become necessary despite there being no precedent for the same. The Principal Secretary, Finance Department also failed to respond to why such petty issues were not resolved in a timely manner and why this became the reason for causing trouble to lacs of people being denied medical services

6. The Committee observed that no reasonable explanation has been given for the abrupt discontinuation of the DEO services at the OPD counters with no thought to an alternate mechanism in place.

7. The Committee observed that the AR Study did not bring about any substantial change in the functioning of the OPD Counters at the Hospitals. It was further observed that the Finance Department was aware that the AR Study would not amount to any significant change and required the same to be conducted only as a means to cause further inconvenience.

8. The Committee observed that the wilful negligence on the part of the Secretary, Health and Principal Secretary, Finance to resolve this issue in a timely manner resulted in immense financial loss to the patients. Further, financial losses would also be borne by the government owing to rendering of delayed and improper treatment requiring more intensive medical intervention in the future.

9. The Committee observed that there is sufficient reason to assume that the Secretary, Health and Principal Secretary, Finance Department have conspired to discredit the Elected Government by manufacturing such an issue and causing harm to the public, prior to the MCD elections.

10. It is observed that there is a recurring practice by the Principal Secretary, Finance Department to halt the work and functioning of various departments on arbitrary grounds. In addition to the tenders of the DEOs at the OPD Counters, this practice of the Principal Secretary, Finance Department to refuse to re invite tender or grant approval for release of payment has been observed in (i) the Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinics wherein the remunerations to the Doctors has been stopped (ii) Delhi Jal Board wherein the 2nd and 3rd quarter payments has been stopped (iii) Social Welfare Department wherein the pensions of widows and old age persons have also been stopped (iv) the Pension of DTC Personnel and the salaries of Bus Marshals (v) Subsidy to TDPL and (vi) Gaoshala payment.

11. The Committee observed that the Chief Secretary was unable to provide any satisfactory response as to whether he had knowledge of the troubling issues in the departments of the Delhi Government, despite the same being a part of regular reportage in the newspapers of Delhi.

12. The Chief Secretary was further unable to answer directly whether he had been informed of the issues in the Departments by the HODs of the respective Departments and if they had failed to do so, what action was taken against them. The Committee finds it fair to draw an inference that the Chief Secretary was infact aware of the said issues and took no action against the HODs as the hurdles and impediments caused to the functioning of the welfare schemes were a deliberate act of sabotage orchestrated by the Chief Secretary at the behest of the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor with no regard to the suffering of the citizens of Delhi seeking medical care.

13. The Committee observed that the Chief Secretary, at the behest of the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor, created an atmosphere of fear amongst the Departments of the Delhi Governments and actively preventing the officers from performing their duties.

14. Though many aspersions have been cast at the role of the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor in the stoppage of various welfare schemes in the Capital, the Committee would have been enlightened if there was a version available from Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor. However, taking deposition from the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor is beyond the scope of this proceedings of the Committee on Petitions. The Committee members noted that the chaos in different departments of the Delhi Government was quite evident at the ground level and had been continuously reported by various newspapers in the last few months. The silence of the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor and his inaction against the officers who had orchestrated these hurdles and caused irreparable loss to the lacs of people in Delhi points towards tactical support to these officers for their misdeeds and apathy towards the suffering of the common man.

Recommendations of the Committee

1. The Committee recommends that the hospitals should purchase computer systems of their own instead of issuing tender for the same.

2. The Committee recommends that the tender to engage DEOs should be reissued every 2 years without fail and any extensions should be dealt with at the MS level alone.

3. The Committee recommends that if at all AR study is to be conducted the same should be done simultaneously or prior to the issuance of tender while DEOs are engaged rather than first removing the DEOs and then conducting the Study.

4. The Committee recommends that the Chief Secretary take strict action against the Secretary, Health and Principal Secretary, Finance Department for willfully causing delay in processing of files regarding the DEOs in OPD Counters.

5. The Committee recommends that Privilege proceedings be initiated against (i) Mr.Amit Singla, Secretary, Health Department (ii) Dr.A.C.Verma, Principal Secretary, Finance Department and (iii) Mr.Manoj Sharma, Deputy Secretary, Finance Department for the acts of misleading the Committee, disrespectful conduct and attempting to conceal information from the Committee.

6. The Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi should submit an Action Taken Report on the abovementioned recommendations by the Committee (No.1 to No.5) to the Legislative Assembly of Delhi within thirty working days of the adoption of this report.

7. The Committee humbly requests the Hon’ble President of India and Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, to take cognizance of this report of the Committee on Petitions and take appropriate action against the Chief Secretary and the Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor.

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