Friday, April 30, 2010

36. The hands of god

Did you notice that piao, the conspicuous little window along the street that used to fill your stretched palm with water, has slowly disappeared from our lives! One could rarely see the person behind the window but the proverbial hands of god would consistently pour the elixir of life. More often than not it would be a woman, silently upholding a rich tradition of serving water to the passers by. At other places, a piao would mean few clay pots filled with water lying under a shady tree alongwith a tumbler for self-service.

Not any more, as societal response to fulfilling individual human needs has few takers. As municipalities restrict the supply of `non-revenue water', a class of water that doesn't generate income, the piao cannot sustain its services. Ironically, such an essential service is clubbed under acts of pilferage - be it through theft or metering inaccuracies - that the municipalities are wanting to curb. No wonder, even community taps have been abandoned at several locations.

Isn't the state's failure to distribute water equitably been the cause for the so-called water thefts? Far from addressing the root cause, the move has been to convert all available resource into `revenue water'. Each drop will have to be paid for, the municipalities want to generate revenue from the estimated 40 per cent `lost' water. Many railway stations stop water supplies minutes before the crowded trains arrive!

Mark my words, the next war will be over restricted supply of `non-revenue water' - an unwritten human right. Amen!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

35. Your sickness makes doctor healthy

Did you hear what Dr P Venugopal, the illustrious heart surgeon, had to say about the business of `modern medicine'? Says he, `medical thrillers' wildest plots of ruthless profiteering are now common practice'. Shockingly, corporate hospitals do give doctors monthly targets for the number of stent procedures and scans. Such targets extend to other disciplines of medicine too, with the ever eager doctors ready to bring unsuspecting patients under scissor and scalpel.

Hasn't sickness become doctor's interest? The more people fall sick, the more the doctor/hospital stand to gain! Curiously, doctor's interest becomes not health but sickness. If everybody remains healthy, then the doctor will be the only one who will be sick. The mushrooming growth of private super-speciality hospitals is indeed a trap that the vulnerable fall into. One pays to remain sick!

A paradigm shift alone can keep the masses healthy. In China a revolutionary step was taken two thousand years ago. Under then new system the doctor had to be paid by the patient as long as the patient remained healthy. If the patient fell sick, then the doctor was not to be paid. Isn't it strange because we pay the doctor when we are sick. This is dangerous, because the system then makes the doctor dependent on our sickness.

And the difference lies in how `health' is perceived: in the West it is called `medicine', which relates to sickness whereas in the East the term is `ayurveda', which means `the science of life' - not of sickness.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

34. A card to prosperity

In recent times, hundreds of newly built toilets have been ripped apart by poor households in many parts of rural Madhya Pradesh. Eyewitness report that such incidents have been rampant across the countryside where these subsidised structures have sprung under the ambitious total sanitation campaign. But why would the poor engage in such destructive activity?

Posessing a toilet not only lifts them above the poverty line (as it adds up the requisite points to jump the line) but strips them of the attractive doles too. Who would not want to remain poor when hundred days of assured employment, cashless health care facility,subsidised ration and free education are on offer? The virtue of being `below poverty line' is without doubt compelling. A one-time toilet in contrast is a contraption, a poor substitute for lucrative monthly gains.

India is perhaps the only country in the world where poverty has a premium. BPL Card is like a privy purse, a contribution by the rich state to sustain its poor below an imaginary `line'. Each new move by the government, be it the rural employment guarantee scheme or the ambitious food security program, is designed to increase the number of poor. Poverty is a grand celebration for keeping the machinery called `government' well oiled. Smells fish!

The poor don't need fish but a helping hand to catch a fish!