“It Will Take A While To Change The Messy Scenarios In Hospitals” — Dr AK Walia Health Minister, NCT of Delhi
Dr Ashok Kumar Walia, a hardcore devotee of Congress, believes in serving people and the party as he calls all this his religion. An eligible and confirmed bachelor feels married to politics. In an interview to Syed Wajid Ali he spoke about various issues related to deteriorated condition in Delhi hospitals. Excerpts:
You studied medicine, practiced for a decade or so as a qualified medical practitioner. Then how did you take the plunge into politics?
Well, I had ever been comfortable with the profession I was in. I did not enter politics on purpose; in fact the late Harikishan Lal Bhagatji introduced me to it. He taught me the tricks of the trade to the extent of helping those in need. He helped me become the source whereby I can help people coming to me. I started working with intent to bring about a change in east Delhi—I mean in terms of road infrastructure, medical facilities, education and sports. People have chosen me now. I am their servant and have been delivering the best I can do to them.
Why did you join Congress ?
I think the ideology of Congress is much more secular than those who just claim to be secular.
Ideology means using Muslims as its vote bank, yes?
No, I beg to differ with you on this point.
BJP shows an overt sign of being communal despite the fact some Muslim leaders at national level in its coterie, a sort of eyewash or maybe their compulsion whereas Congress remains covert on this stand, it too stabs but in the back. How do you look at it?
At least, we are matchless so far as our secular stance goes. We are secular and will remain this way only. You know better what BJP has done in the past and what it’s doing now. We never betrayed the faith reposed in us by our Muslim brethren and I’ll keep it intact.
It’s been more than 20 years since you joined politics. Have you ever thought of touching national politics?
You have to serve and deliver wherever you are. At national level, if you fail to measure yourself up to the expectations of the people you are for, that defeats the purpose and you are a flop there then what’s the use? I’m happy the way I’m doing and I strive not to let my superiors down.
Portfolios change hands sometimes out of the blue like what happened this time which is named as a routine shuffle. Do you think it is an overnight process?
No it is not. Everything comes out through the process and what Madam Dikshit thinks final is beyond an iota of a doubt and I can say that she is rather judicious and decisive in taking decisions in her cabinet.
CM Sheila Dikshit relies on you handling health assignment. Is there any specific reason?
Not all, earlier on as you know that I had finance and urban ministers. She knows her job better and she does it with finesse. Maybe she feels I’m rather fit for this. I’ll serve with utmost dedication and commitment as long as I hold office.
In the recently held corporation election, Congress met its waterloo once again. What went wrong?
There is nothing as such to point more categorically. Congress won by a big margin wherever it got the berth, unfortunately we failed to make it to the final as a whole in MCD polls.
Your councillors fell flat on the nose who you thought your trump cards. Those sycophant, crony and politics- seduced wannabe politicians you usually remain surrounded by, are responsible for this disaster.
I guess people are responsible who overlooked our work and service. All the candidates fielded in the election carried weight with a reputed image but the result came the other way round. We all worked hard in tandem, our candidates left no stone unturned in doing their duties but we ran into rough weather in the end. Maybe they expect a little more than what we gave but then we will provide all that they want next time.
Assembly elections are lying around the corner. How will you prepare the pitch for this battle?
Wait and see. People there know everything; they understand and even acknowledge all that we have done for them. We kept our promise by giving them the best road infrastructure, flyovers, schools, hospitals and dispensaries. In addition, we endeavour to provide them with their basic necessities so that no one will remain deprived of basic amenities at least in my constituency. The common fight of the aam aadmi is for sadak, bijli, paani and we have delivered the best part so far.
Will Congress repeat the sweep?
Yes. It’s going to be a landslide winning.
Can you please elaborate on how you can retain your place in Delhi in 2013 assembly elections?
I am proud to say that we have done projects like Chacha Nehru Hospital in Geeta Colony, Dr Hedgwar Hospital, Karkardooma, a hospital in Shastri Park, a dispensary in Bank Enclave, a cancer ward in GTB Hospital in Dilshad Garden, Rajiv Gandhi Hospital in Tahirpur, PSK (Poorv Sanskriti Kendra) in Laxmi Nagar, an engineering college in Geeta Colony, ITO Vikas Marg signal free, Geeta Colony and Shantivan bridge, a 220 KV grid station in Geeta Colony and a 33 KV station in Shakarpur for regular supply of power, parking in Lalita Park, pension assistance to old-age people, many subways, foot over bridges for pedestrians and hundreds of parks and all this cost Rs 825 crore.
What will be the agenda this time and what strategies are you going to employ?
As you know, Madam Dikshit has already regularised hundreds of colonies. We have a plethora of programmes focusing on public welfare that include medical and education facilities.
Our chief focus will remain on Shakarpur, Mandawali and Pandav Nagar. New lines for water supply have started in Shakarpur, Ganga water will run through the underground lines in Ganesh Nagar, Mandawali, Pandav Nagar. Lately, Ambedkar Chaupaal in Mandawali was renovated. In our manifesto, Ganesh Nagar south, Mandawali and Sundar Block, Master Block, G Block and H Block of Shakarpur will remain on the top of the list.
On the one hand, there is no denying that you have done a lot in your constituency, which is visible even to the naked eyes, but price hike in diesel, petroleum and LPG on the other, is too much a test of the people. Their patience is running thin. What would be your take on this?
The Centre is the ultimate authority to decide. There are certain factors affecting the economic balance and the policies formulated by the Centre impact the change in prices. We have no say in it.
As a Minister of Health in Delhi government, what challenges are lying ahead of you?
As such many, there are a couple of hospitals in the pipeline and those proposed hospitals will certainly unburden the loads of other hospitals run by the state government. In addition, we will improve the condition in the existing hospitals, it’s about availability of medicines, proper check-ups, dissipation of congestion, more OPDs and more beds.
Cases of malaria, chicken guinea and above all dengue cases, are reported so far with a whopping figure of more than 1450, and the count is still on. Is it not posing a threat to your ministry? How do you look at it?
We have incorporated a number of precautionary programmes in this regard so that we can check the menace right at the very stage before it may spread further. Besides door-to-door fogging we carry out regular checks to ascertain if there is any possibility of larva developing in households.
In LBS (Lal Bahadur Shastri) Hospital, where even common medicines are not available, GB Pant and LNJP have a great load of accommodating the influx, patients are denied entry on one pretext or another. One single bed is being shared by two patients at a time, crowd is swelling up day in day out. How can you handle this menace?
I wholly agree. We’ll take care of everything and we have done a lot to shape up the scene. It will take a while to change the scenario which is little bit in a mess. Patients coming from other states hamper the smooth flow to an extent. We will monitor the traffic by introducing more hospitals. Besides, we’ll keep a timely check to smoothen the function.
Some staff members in the administration have a nexus with touts on the prowl, who are believed to make the process easy for few hundreds. Are you keeping tabs on this side of the situation?
If you get to smell something fishy like you say, bring that to my notice and I’ll take immediate action.
Doctors and interns are too harsh and coarse with the language. Is there any arrangement whereby you can brief them to civilize themselves with their lingo and perfect their demeanour with patients coming for medical assistance?
I have not come across any incident if at all there crops up any of this kind, the erring person whosoever, will be taken to task. The doctors must maintain the decorum in any case.
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