Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and other Congress MLAs on their way to Assembly, at Dharamshala on Wednesday. (Express photo: Pradeep Kumar)
The issue of molestation of over two dozen girl students by teachers in two different government schools came up for discussion in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly on the third day of its winter session at Tapovan on Wednesday.
The opposition Congress also highlighted alleged medical negligence, shortage of doctors and lack of health infrastructure in the state even as the ruling BJP stressed that the state has shown remarkable progress in giving affordable and accessible healthcare services to the public.
Soon after Question Hour, Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri raised the issue of the alleged molestation of 13 girl students by a teacher in a government school in Una, and demanded from the government a policy decision to directly dismiss such teachers instead of suspending them.
Agnihotri also sought to draw the attention of the House towards the alleged discrimination among students in the distribution of mid-day meals in a school in Chief Minister Jai Ram Thaukr’s home district Mandi. Replying to Agnihotri, Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj sought to assure the House that the government would in future, wherever possible, would directly dismiss teachers involved in molestation.
There is a provision under Article 311 of the Constitution whereby the government may directly dismiss them, he added. Bhardwaj said the accused teacher of Haroli school had been suspended on Tuesday itself. The teacher was arrested after registration of a case against him under POCSO at the women police station in Una on the complaint of the girl students, the police said.
The education minister, meanwhile, said the Mandi deputy director (education) has been asked to submit a report about the Mandi school where the students of different castes were allegedly asked to sit in separate rows while being served mid-day meal to them. Appropriate action will be taken in this regard after getting the report, he added.
Shortage of doctors, vaccines
Under a resolution brought under Rule 130, Congress MLA Inder Dutt Lakhanpal said that several people, including a nine-year-old girl from Barsar, died recently after being administered antibiotic injections in civil hospitals, leading to public outrage. Health Minister Vipin Parmar replied that an inquiry is underway and the supply of the said drug was stopped and sealed immediately. According to a PTI report, he also said that 350 new doctors will be appointed in the next four days in the government hospitals of the state during the discussion on health services in the state.
Lakhanpal also alleged that the rabies vaccine is sometimes unavailable and one hospital did not even have a thermometer. Other Congress MLAs said that primary health centres, dispensaries and civil hospitals across the state were facing an acute shortage of doctors, specialists, technicians, staff and sweepers. Nagrota MLA Ram Lal Thakur said that many hospitals were simply referring most cases to Shimla and Chandigarh and most hospitals had multiple patients sharing a bed. “Sometimes, there are simply no medicines, no paramedic staff, and no specialists,” he said.
Need for trauma centres in remote areas
Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari said that people in interior and remote areas such as Seraj and Chamba have to travel long distances to reach a healthcare facility, and that 108 ambulances need upgradation. Vikramaditya Singh stressed the need to upgrade hospitals and PHCs in the state capital’s periphery so that bigger hospitals such as the IGMC can deal with more serious cases rather than ‘cold and cough patients’.
MLAs from Paonta Sahib, Nalagarh, and Baddi said that motor and industrial accidents in their constituencies are high and, therefore, trauma centres need to be built in these areas. Dr Dhani Ram Shandil from Solan appealed for a multi-specialty hospital in Solan due to its rapidly growing population while leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri asked whether the state was trying to sell three heritage ayurvedic centres.
Members of the House also discussed the poor condition of village link roads due to which people facing medical emergencies are unable to reach hospitals in time. They unanimously agreed that adequate provisions should be made to maintain not just the PWD main roads but also other roads built by panchayats, the forest department or any other agency.
BJP MLAs emphasised a recent survey by a private publication that ranked Himachal as the best in the country in terms of health and education. MLA Rakesh Pathania said that around 750 new doctors have been enrolled and there is a dialysis centre in every hospital. “The lack of rabies vaccine was a national crisis and not limited to Himachal,” he countered.
Healthcare schemes have helped many: Health minister
The health minister said that around Rs 100 crore is being spent on 1 lakh beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana and the state government’s Himcare Yojana. “Himcare has provision for free treatment up to five lakh rupees in 199 hospitals across the state, and covers cardiology, plastic surgery, urology, psychological disorders and most other critical ailments. We’re trying to include all sections of the population under various health schemes and it has been a remarkable achievement,” he said, adding that in the last two years, around 345 pharmacists and 360 nurses have been recruited.
He added that the doctor-patient ratio in Himachal is 1:3,550 as compared to the national average of 1:10,000.
“Himachal also fares better in terms of infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate,” he said. Reacting to a report of drug samples having been failed from the state, he said that six samples had failed and an inquiry was underway. “The drug failure rate in Himachal is 1.56 per cent while the national average is 4 per cent,” he added.