Contrary to the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s claims of having eradicating middle-men and directly benefitting the poor and the needy, a recent investigation conducted by The Indian Express in the state of Maharashtra (BJP-ruled) suggests otherwise. The investigation, based on documents obtained under the RTI Act, has found middle men leveraging the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to their benefit with the help of stolen identities, fake records, proxy applicants, inflated medical estimates and dubious income certificates. Consider two (of the many) cases that were studied in the investigation:
Case 1: Ashok Pandurang Bhosle, a 45-year-old resident of Ahmednagar, was sanctioned an amount of Rs 90,000 from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s office for his heart treatment. However, the documents related to the case revealed that the application for assistance in his name was submitted 10 days after his death (May 27, 2017) and the money was received 21 days after his death. The application for the patient’s assistance was recommended by BJP’s MLA from Mumbai, Ram Kadam. When The Indian Express contacted MLA Ram Kadam, his personal assistant Sachin Ayare denied any wrongdoing on the MLA’s part, saying that Kadam had no clue that the patient had already died. However, after The Indian Express contacted the hospital to question the incident, the authorities came into action and the money was refunded to the Chief Medical Officer on December 16, 2017.
Case 2: An amount of Rs 40,000 was released for Asha Suryavanshi for a heart procedure — ‘balloon mitral valvotomy’. However, RTI response revealed that she had just come to the hospital for a diagnostic test and the documents submitted with the application were ‘fabricated’. The mobile number listed under Suryavanshi in the application form also turned out to be invalid.
Investigations revealed that the Chief Minister’s Office continued to approve funds to hospitals across the state even after a cautionary alert by some senior officials linked to the scheme. As per the data obtained in response to the RTI query by The Indian Express, the Maharashtra government spent more than Rs 237 crore from the CMRF to pay for the medical expenses of patients classified as “poor” in 23,267 cases. The detailed study also found that many healthcare workers were fiddling with medical records and tweaking cost estimates to claim funds. Many well-off families were also found to have received funds by furnishing fake certificates classifying them under Economically Weaker Section.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis cleared that any misuse of the Scheme won’t be tolerated. Hailing the scheme as one of the most popular health schemes in the country, he said that the government will file against cases of misuse. Reacting to the findings of the Indian Express, he added that 100 per cent audit of each case has been ordered.
The findings of the study assume greater significance in the wake of the Centre announcing the world’s largest health care scheme in the Union Budget 2018.