It is said that the Government of India is going to make the ESI Medical facilities optional. It is also said that the employees would be given option to choose medical insurance of private operators.
First of all, ESIC does not provide medical facilities only. Medical Benefit is just one of the five major benefits provided by the Government of India to the working population through the ESIC. The other four are cash benefits provided in the contingencies of sickness, maternity, disablement and in the event of fatal accidents. No private player can ever match the benefits provided by the Government through the ESIC. It is not necessary for one to cudgel one’s brains to go through the monumental document of Sir William Beveridge, and the passionate report of the compassionate Prof. Adharkar to understand how and why it must be the duty of the Government of India to provide these benefits to the working population.
Even The Hindu conceded editorially on 01.01.2005 that “The package (of benefits provided by the ESIC) can rarely be matched by private employers on their own because of the heavy costs involved – not to mention the disinclination among employers, with honorable exceptions, to operate health care systems for their workforce”
It is the Government, which runs the ESIC. As far as the medical benefit is concerned, the Government can run the hospitals and dispensaries very well. It can control corruption, if it wants to. But, the political parties that came to power successively were not interested in proper running of the administration. They wanted to have the power of transfer of the officers of the ESIC, for mala fide reasons. The financial strength of the organisation, appreciated by the Economic Times in 2003 was weakened deliberately and more than Rs. 15000 crores of ESIC funds frittered away for questionable purposes.
ESI Scheme is the backbone of the nation’s economy. Just like the backbone, it remains invisible. So, the sensation seeking media – even major media – did not care what was going on in the ESIC when so many things went awry.
BJP is definitely leading the country in the wrong direction. We have to learn from USA and Cuba about the provision of medical benefits to the people of the nation. US is a warning and Cuba is an example. Poor in USA go to Cuba for treatment. (Of course, not only those employed in factories but others as well).
Whatever be the ‘ism’s they are calling, nothing could succeed in India or any nation, for that purpose, unless corruption is controlled. And, corruption can, really, be controlled.
Making the source of finance for every political party transparent is the first step to eradicate corruption. Unless BJP comes forward to enact appropriate law for this purpose, they cannot make the people believe they are the saviours of the people. Because, as things stand, the political parties collect money from corporates and the people in that party share that money among themselves. Funny, these people quote scriptures in public, to the public.
When Tony Blair laid down office as the Prime Minister of the UK, his personal worry was how to settle his personal loans. In India, no councillor of Municipality would remain a debtor after a single tenure in office as councillor. What to talk of Ministers who are fond of aristocratic life style!
ESI medical benefits are supposed to be really qualitative. The pharmacopeia is of WHO standards. Still, it is the unwillingness and greed of the politicians in power and the corrupt motive of the officials, which prevent the ESI medical institutions from reaching greater heights.
Mediclaim policies of private institutions are not the panacea for it. There are many other practical problems posed by the latest decision of the Government, which wants to abdicate its responsibility on this score. They will be dealt with later, in public interest.
An article underscoring the importance of this social security scheme is uploaded in the following link, for those who would like to know the history behind the scheme.
Click for Articles here.
Now, more than anything else:
Who will provide Sickness Benefit? And, on whose certificate? Has the BJP chosen to away with the Sickness Benefit altogether? Has it examined the issues involved in it? Pity indeed!