Interview with Dr Harshvardhan
Shiela has failed on all fronts
Dr Harshvardhan needs no introduction. As the Delhi BJP president and a former Health Minister of Delhi, he has been a vociferous advocate of good governance, while, during his tenure as Health Minister, he instituted new schemes for the welfare of Delhiites, and which drew praise from all quarters. In an informal interview with Ashish Joshi, he expounded on misgovernance by the Sheila Dikshit government, the descent into chaos of the national capital region, and its impact on the life of the common man.
What is your assessment of the performance of the Sheila Dikshit government during the past six years?
In my opinion, we?ve never had a worse government than this one. It is callous, riddled with corruption and has proved totally inefficient. The Chief Minister has no concern for the people and over the years, she has begun to think that she has people'ssupport and so can get away with anything. I feel she should resign at once so that the people of Delhi can get some respite.
What, in your opinion, are the main shortcomings of the present Delhi government?
This government has totally failed on all fronts. Let me cite some examples. Ever since power generation was privatised, Delhiites had been assured a 24-hour uninterrupted supply, but since then, the power tariff has been hiked three times and another one is in the offing. Delhi is now reeling under a severe power crisis. The new meters installed run too fast and the bills quote exorbitant amounts. There seems to be an unholy nexus between the private companies and the local government, with all this adding to the existing woes of the common man.
Take the water crisis, for instance. There is less and less water for Delhiites now and between 80-90 per cent of the water is polluted and unfit for drinking. There have been instances of finding snakes in the water, and the presence of Vibrio cholerae (the cholera virus) in water is a terrifying reality. Despite this, the water tariff is again to be increased, adding to the burden of the long-suffering Delhiites.
Among other things, the hospitals in Delhi are in a pitiable state. The patients suffer from shortage of doctors, vital medicines, while expensive life-saving machines gather dust. And the less said about the schools, the better. Students have no books, there is an acute shortage of teachers in government-run schools, and no one seems to care. Moreover, the existing syllabus denigrates our culture and mythology besides insulting our religious (read Hindu) leaders. It needs to be totally revised as it is playing havoc with the minds of impressionable school-children, who are the future of tomorrow.
Last, but not the least, the law and order situation here is simply pathetic. The increase in cases of murder, robbery and rape are a shameful indicator of how unsafe this city really is.
What do you think were the key achievements of your government during your tenure as Health Minister?
Well, we always believed that health was something that should be treated as a social movement. Health problems are 90 per cent preventable and 10 per cent therapeutic. And we implemented our health policies along these lines. We were the first to start the ?pulse polio? campaign and introduce the anti-smoking policy, whereby smoking in public places was banned. The Matri Suraksha Abhiyan was our brainchild, and we built as many as 10,000 rooms in schools all over the city, so that education could be made accessible to all. Moreover, we started the Delhi Metro so that people could undertake a pollution-free journey and travel in comfort. Our government invariably worked towards betterment of the lot of the common man, and this showed in the results.
What was the inspiration behind the ?pulse polio? campaign, which proved so popular?
I was the president-elect of the DMA (Delhi Medical Association) and I planned to work in east Delhi for polio eradication. Later, however, when I became the Health Minister, I put my plan to reality at the behest of my friends, who urged me to launch the campaign. I dreamt of a polio-free India, and thus was born the pulse-polio campaign on the lines of the programme run in countries like Brazil, Philippines, etc. The programme became an unqualified success, I am happy to state. The WHO even asked me to work as an advisor for the South-east Asia region.
You are both a doctor and a politician. Is it not difficult for you to juggle both careers at the same time?
It takes a lot of time-management to work on my twin careers. My political duties keep me occupied most of the day, but then it'salso important to take care of the family (smiles). All in all, it'sa satisfying experience, and I wouldn'thave it any other way.