Democracy means having the right to say what one wants and leaving the decision to others*. But, what one says must be right and true. This website makes every attempt to present the ‘right’s and the ‘truths’. And, this website never claims that what it presents alone is right. It is for the reader to discern what is right and what is wrong, as the website is open for different viewpoints and has hosted articles received by it with contrary views.
This website reiterates that it serves only as a forum to bring out the opinion of the public so that the authorities are able to traverse beyond their immediate circle and take informed decisions. The website would also enable the Ministers and Prime Minister to realize the seriousness of their mistake in forcing the bureaucrats to put up convenient notes to justify the pro-rich decision already taken by them, ignoring the pain that would be inflicted on the society by such improper political decision.
Wrong decisions by Elected Bodies
Now that the ESI Corporation, as a body, has realised, in its 163rd meeting, that running the medical colleges is not its core activity (and that too, after the amendment of 2010 which made the medical colleges, part of the ESIC) the issue becomes how and why the same ESI Corporation, as a body, considered, in the years 2008 and 2009, that running the medical college was essential for it, “to improve the quality of services provided under the ESI Scheme” and permitted spending the surplus funds running into more than Rs. 9000 crores, in a tearing hurry, and hundreds of crores were sanctioned first and placed later for approval ex-post facto by the Standing Committee, for construction of medical college buildings, even before the formal amendment was made to the ESI Act to empower the ESIC to “establish” medical colleges.
The fact, therefore, is that the ESIC, as a body, took a wrong decision either before the amendment or, now, after the amendment. The indisputable fact is that the ESIC, as a body, has demonstrated that it could and would take wrong decisions.
Failure of Members to play their legitimate role
But, the concept of having a multi-faceted body for decision-making is that there should, normally, be informed discussions in the meetings so that there would be no scope for such patently wrong decisions. But that was not to be in the case of ESIC when it came to spending thousands of crores of rupees for construction of buildings for medical colleges, even before the enactment of law. The ESI Corporation, is a Body in which there are, among others,
- 10 employers’ representatives,
- 10 employees’ representatives,
- 3 MPs, and
- 25 IAS Officers representing various State Governments.
Yet, such wrong decision had been taken in the ESIC meetings, only because of the failure of the employers’ representatives and employees’ representatives (except Mr. Kali Ghose) to examine the proposal with the seriousness it deserved. The representatives of the State Governments used to remain silent spectators in almost all the ESIC meetings, except when the issue involved their States. But, their presence had always lent credibility to the claim of their consent to the decision in the Body by showing them as part of the affirming majority. In essence, majority of the members of the ESIC did not show active interest, in the years 2008 and 2009, in examining the proposal tabled for their consideration, for insertion of Sec. 59-B. Hence the present predicament.
Failure of the media to prevent the catastrophe
Yet, even in those years of origin of the present problem, there had been some activists who had been working hard to prevent the catastrophe and to enlighten the MPs about such a wrong decision and the unlawful action in spending crores of rupees for construction of buildings for medical colleges, even before the Parliament amended the Act. But, the MPs did not care. Those activists wrote to various newspapers too, including the “National”ones. But, no editor cared. The Parliamentary Standing Committee was cheated. And, in the last leg, the Parliamentarians chose to be busy with creating pandemonium over Mr. Sibu Soren issue while Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge could present the amendment, amidst interruptions and interruptions, and get it through. The result was a puzzling proposal for amendment became law with an ‘amazing’ and improper Validation Clause. That was how the ESI Corporation, as a Body, the Parliamentary Standing Committee, as a Body, and the House of the People, as a Body, had erred and failed to live up to the purpose for which they were there. They had failed to analyse the present and foresee even the easily foreseeable future.
Atlas is looking for another shoulder
And, the burden of that error and failure, has been passed on by the earlier Administration to the shoulders of the present Administration, which is searching desperately for other shoulders to shift its burden. Atlas who got the burden of the globe shifted to his shoulders is still trying to find someone else to shift it off. The issue now is whether Atlas can continue to shoulder the burden or should shift it to someone else or whether he can make use of it, in any other manner, without shouldering it as a burden. The decision in the 163rd meeting of the ESI Corporation that running the medical colleges is not its core activity is right. But, handing over the buildings to the State Governments or private players does not appear to be right. The members of the ESIC do not seem to have discussed the issue in-depth. They appear to have remained silent and endorsed the already made up bureaucratic stand on the issue. It is a clear failure of the present ESI Corporation, as a body. Its decision to shift the burden to the State Governments or to the private players do not seem to be correct and right. But, what are the other options open for the ESIC to make the best out of the present quandary? Are there ways to come out of the quagmire?
Of course, people come up with a variety of ideas. Some may be right. Some may be wrong. Some may be legal. Some may be unlawful. It is felt appropriate to examine all the options in an open forum so that the best comes out of it to facilitate the Administrators to consider those options.
Thankfully, many are public-spirited
Some well-intentioned activists believe in taking up the issue to the Court of Law. The relevant questions on the issue are, therefore, brought to the attention of the public, seeking their opinions on them. The questions and the replies given by the public would be presented before the judiciary as a document in the Typeset when the Writ is filed.
Every single citizen has a say in the matter and a stake in the well-being of the ESIC, as an organisation meant to take care of complex life problems. The website, therefore, invites readers to record their viewpoints on the crucial issues so that the best solution emerges out of such brainstorming event for the common good.
“I am only one; I cannot do everything.
Still, I am one; I can do something.
Because I cannot do everything,
I will not desist from doing something that I can do”,
The first case to be filed in the Court will focus on the manner in which the ESIC proposes to utilise the buildings which are constructed for running medical colleges. Hon’ble Minister for Labour has made the stand of the Government public in the Press Release dated 23.03.2015. That Press Release will be the impugned document.
Press Release 23. 03.2015
The Press Release dated 23.03.2015 says that the ESI Corporation is going to hand over 8 medical colleges, at Faridabad, Sanatnagar, Coimbatore, Gulbarga, Mandi, Alwar, Paripally and Bihta to State Governments as per its revised terms and conditions. It has been mentioned that if the State Governments do not come forward to send any reply within 15 days, it would be presumed by the ESI Corporation that they were not interested in taking over those projects and, thereafter, efforts would be made to run these medical colleges under PPP model etc.,
It has also been specified therein that “the core function of the ESIC is to provide social security i.e., cash benefit and medical benefit to the Insured Persons under the ESI Scheme. It was felt it would help the ESIC in concentrating at its core function if the ESIC exited from the field of Medical Education”.
White elephants, so many!
It is apparent from the said Press Release that the present ESI Administration finds it difficult to run the Medical Colleges and does not know how to get rid of so many white elephants. It says it is trying to hand over the “Medical Colleges” to the State Governments, on its own terms and conditions.
The Ministry of Labour is also ready ( Or, eager?) to hand over those “Medical Colleges” to private players, as could be seen from the Press Release dated 23.03.2015. It uses the term ‘PPP model’. It also uses, significantly, the word “etc” to indicate that it does have more options too.
The Press Release gives raise to various questions, some of which are enumerated below:
- Where is the provision in Sec. 59-B to empower the ESIC to run the “medical colleges” through private players or even through State Governments? Such third party participation is permitted by Sec. 59 (3) only to run the ESI Hospitals and not Medical Colleges. How can the ESIC mix up Sec. 59(3) with Sec. 59 (B)?
- Besides, the basic issue is, where is the continued need for the ESIC to run medical colleges and also to seek PPP for that purpose, when it has found out that it is not its core activity, at least, now?
- When the Administration has admitted that the buildings of 8 more medical colleges are only “under construction”, why should it not forget about medical colleges but use the infrastructure created, for some other purposes, in such a manner that it generates permanent rental income to the ESIC to add to the ESI Fund, to offset the money lost during the last six years?
- Is it obligatory for the ESIC to run those medical colleges through proxies, either through the State Government or through PPP or through other methods (as implied from the world ‘etc’), just because buildings have been constructed or just because the MCI is going to give permission to it?
- When the Private Players are allowed to run the medical colleges, will they be running it as per their own licence or by using the licence obtained by the ESIC from the Medical Council of India?
- If the ESIC is using the licence obtained by it for running the medical colleges and allowing that licence to be used by the private players, will it be legal, when the ESIC has gone on record saying repeatedly that running the medical colleges is not its core activity?
- Would those private players be able to get permission from the Medical Council of India to run medical colleges on their own? Are these private players permitted to be the beneficiaries of the misadventure and discomfiture of the ESIC in having illegally started construction of buildings spending thousands of crores of rupees from the year 2008?
- How is it that some private players like Reliance, SRM and others are reported to have already entered the premises of various (proposed) medical colleges at Coimbatore, Joka and other places, officially and inspected the infrastructure under construction?
- Is it true that those private players would admit students under Management Quota to make money, using the licence granted to the ESIC for starting medical colleges?
- What is the significance of giving only 15 days’ time to the State Governments to accept the Terms and Conditions framed by the ESIC before and for inviting the private players to have a role in running the medical colleges on behalf of the ESI Corporation?
Helen Keller, all
Everyone is, can be and has to be a Helen Keller. Everyone’s ideas count. Actions of individuals count. During the early 1940s there had been many social activists, impartial scientific authorities, in England who had conducted many social surveys of the conditions of life of the people in principal towns in Britain including London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Plymouth, Southampton, York and Bristol.
That alerted Winston Churchill to entrust the work of formal study of the issues of Social Security to Sir William Beveridge. The website, therefore, invites all the readers to come up with their ideas and opinions on the issues affecting the working population.
If emerging facts prove what the PMO, Ministry of Labour and the ESIC are going really in right direction in public interest, it will not be necessary to move the court of law on this score. Otherwise, we will have to seek the intersession of the Judiciary to save the nation from the organised attempts of the rich businessmen and pro-rich-politicians to dismantle the finest Social Security of the nation.
(*with due apologies to H.D.Thoreau).