Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, four times member of Parliament and a former minister for Information and Broadcast lies comatose in a room of the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi. Doctors say he is brain dead and is in a vegetative state. He has been that way from October 2008 when he suffered a stroke. First admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, he was shifted to Dusseldorf in Germany for stem cell treatment and then brought back to India.
In 2011, Dr Prathap C. Reddy, chairman of the Apollo group advised that he be taken home as there was very little they could do. “He has been in a paralytic state for three years. Doctors from John Hopkins university who treated him also agreed with this. All treatment have been tried on him, but without any results. Our doctors feel that he can now be managed at home”, Dr Reddy told the family. But that has not happened.
When Dr Reddy said that, Dasmunshi's treatment bills for many months were not cleared. The Lok Sabha has been paying for his treatment. But now letters were flying between the Lok Sabha secretariat and the Union Health Ministry on Dasmunshi's entitlements for reimbursement—which was really all about verifying whether he was entitled to staying on in the five-star hospital at the cost of the tax payer. His condition was not covered under the Central Government Health Scheme, and in any case the cost was much more than the CGHS could sanction. When Dr Reddy raised the issue, Dasmunshi was not an MP, his wife, Deepa was. But now, even she is not.
Soon after the Modi government assumed office, then Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan confirmed that the Centre will continue to pay for the supportive care that Dasmunshi was getting at Apollo. A medical practitioner himself, Dr Vardhan added there was nothing much the government could do if his family does not want to take him home. Anyway, Dasmunshi had done a lot for society, and in a sense it is now for society to give it back to him, was the BJP leader's philosophical view.
Meanwhile, Deepa Dasmunshi has done everything she could to wake up her comatose husband—played his favourite music, film, TV channel. Made conversation. Did the physical stuff, like touching, massaging etc. She even had Baba Ramdev visit him. She does not believe that she could give him at home, the care the hospital gives. The cost is estimated at over Rs 60,000 a day. No one has asked her what her decision would be if she had to pay from her own pocket.
Dasmunshi's is an illustrative story. Politicians, especially those who are big leaders or come from a family of big politicians, have this health care facility that the lesser mortals cannot dream of—free and inordinate stay in private five-star hospitals when doctors have given up all hopes of a patient's recovery!
By the way, in the budget that was passed last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has hiked the allocation for health by approximately 2 per cent over the previous year's. And the government's goal is universal health coverage. MPs and former MPs, and political leaders, come from a universe more privileged. For them, the tax payers pay all. Regardless of the budget.