-Mathew C Ninan
There is a season for everything. Even for demonizing select institutions. Once it was the hotels. There was a move to fix the prices of food in all hotels, irrespective of the quality and standard of the hotels. The expectation was that the same kind of food stuff will be provided in all hotels at the same price. Obviously after hogging the headlines for some time the idea died a natural death. The reason is simple - Utopia is nice to dream of, but impossible to realize! It’s back to square one, as far as hotels are concerned.
The lesson we must learn is that we cannot socialize or standardize services, and maintain the same cost of operation. Some people want quality but without paying for it. That is an impossible proposition, because it is illogical. Quality comes with a price. Those who want better quality will have to pay a higher price. That’s how reasoning works in any rational society.
Now in recent times, a similar bug has bitten private hospitals and private schools who are the ‘villains’ of the present times. They have become the punching bags of politicians and bureaucrats of all shades and colours. They are an easy target, a soft one too.
Nobody compels anybody to go to a private hospital. Then how come most of our ‘netas’ prefer treatment in private hospitals? In the same way, nobody compels anybody to admit their children in private schools. How come our politicians and bureaucrats want their children to study in private schools and also recommend their relatives’ and supporters’ children also to the private schools? The same people have no qualms about condemning the private schools.
This is a case of running with the hare, and hunting with the hounds. Blame the private hospitals and schools and take all the benefits that come from them. Is this not hypocrisy? This duplicity is not only among the privileged ones referred to already, but also among the common man. We cannot blame the common man because they tend to believe the statements made by ministers and top functionaries.
Government hospitals and schools maintain good quality in many countries, particularly the developed countries. Why is it that we are not able to emulate that example? If the government improves the quality of their institutions, there is no need for them to regulate the private ones. They do not try to improve their quality, and then complain that the private ones are overcharging the public. This is the proverbial ‘dog in the manger policy’.
The basis for all the punitive actions announced by the government is supposedly the complaints from ‘a large number of people’. People who complain often have their own private grouses to settle with the hospital or the doctor concerned. Sometimes it is also a ploy to avoid settling their dues to the hospital.
The proposed bill mandates hospitals to charge the fees fixed by the government for the various services. So you would see tariffs displayed in the hospitals for its rooms, and various services. Huge penalties will be payable in case of any violation. How can any hospital function under such draconian laws?
There are many imponderables in these areas. Medical care involves so many intricate procedures which cannot be visualized by any layman. How can those charges be fixed? Hospitals are not easy to run, to start with. They require huge amounts of money, professional manpower and constant vigil. Do people who criticize them have any idea about the enormity of the efforts involved?
Mercifully the hospital issue is on the backburner for the present, the bill having been referred to a select committee. Hopefully it will never resurface, if better sense prevails.
The focus may now shift again to private schools. Parents often complain about the fees charged, because they expect free education as a matter of right. The government goes into a damage control exercise. A vilification campaign is unleashed. A lot of disaffection is created through the media against private schools nowadays. This is the most demoralizing experience for well-meaning schools which look after and educate children with utmost devotion and care. Nobody comes to their defence. There are schools and schools, as they say. If there are rogue schools, let parents keep off them. Why should the government generalize and cast aspersions on all private schools as if they all were all alike. Can the service rendered by the private sector be ignored?
Good schools need modern infrastructure, and high quality human resources. All these require huge sums of money. Governments and Boards prescribe stringent conditions for affiliation. How can they be fulfilled without money? Obviously parents have to pay a reasonable fee to get quality education. Else the government should offer them financial support.
If some schools resort to unethical practices, the parents should boycott them. Instead, what is done today is the large number of schools that render yeomen service at considerable effort are being demoralized by this undeserved public criticism that create prejudice and suspicion among the public. This is totally unwarranted and unfair, to say the least.
What would air travel have been like, if only Air India or the now defunct Indian Airlines were flying? Why is it that everybody prefers a private airline to Air India? Then why is this bashing of the private sector at every turn? Is it not a huge paradox?
What would have been the state of our democracy if there were only government controlled newspapers and television channels? Remember the days of Doordarshan channel alone. What about disciplining the media next as they have too much freedom? This can also happen. Every private enterprise can await their turn.
Let the authorities study all the sides of a situation before vilifying any section of society. There will be different sides to any situation. Commonsense demands our seeing things in perspective before apportioning blame. However what happens in all these cases is that the verdict is pronounced even before giving the defendant a chance to tell their side of the story. This is absolutely unacceptable and contrary to democratic principles. “The best government is that which governs the least” (Thomas Jefferson)
(The writer is former Principal, Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar, Udupi)
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