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Saturday, January 6, 2007

Officials work on a Sunday, thanks to HT’s RTI campaign

HT, Avishek G Dastidar New Delhi, July 2, 2006: The following is an apt instance of how Right to Information can work wonders for you.
Owing to the Hindustan Times-supported Drive Against Bribe campaign that started only a couple of days ago, the Mehra family of Ghaziabad will not have to run from pillar to post and grease the palms of officials at the government-owned Govind Ballav Pant hospital.
This multi-specialty hospital had denied admission to a critically-ill Santosh Mehra, 62, citing a supposed unavailability of beds just a week back.
But merely two days after the Mehras filed an RTI requisition through the Drive Against Bribe camp, the doctor concerned promised the patient a bed on Tuesday. “And this is even before the hospital issued a reply to the requisition,” said a jubilant Manav, the 28-year-old son.
He should be jubilant because on June 12, the cardiology department of GB Pant had diagnosed his mother, Santosh Mehra with a fatal 99 per cent blockage in the heart, fit for an immediate bypass surgery. "The doctor had even hand-written on the report that the case needed 'urgent admission'," Manav said.
After the accounts department assured them a bed, this middle-class family borrowed from every source and deposited a draft of around Rs 60,000 to the hospital in seven days. But to their shock, the officials now claimed that a bed would be available only after months. "We did hectic running around, pleading officials and doctors for several days," Manav said. He also said that he and his 74-year-old father even went to every ward and found that several beds were lying vacant. "We got hints from some officials that bribing the right amount to the right persons would promptly end our agony," he added.
But they did not need to, because by then the Drive Against Bribe camp kicked off and helped them make use the power of RTI.
"Cases like this show that through RTI, an aggrieved citizen actually wants his job done quickly. He is not merely interested in information per se. That's the whole idea behind the campaign," said activist Manish Sisodia.
Even the authorities now agree that there was no dearth of space in this 400-seater hospital. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Director Dr Veena Chowdhry said, "I don't know which officials the Mehras dealt with, but there were enough beds vacant here for critical patients." She also said that this incident is unusual because the hospital reviews its operation schedule every week and critical cases are dealt with within 48 hours.
A relieved Mehra family will take Santosh to the hospital for admission on Tuesday. They now know that RTI really works if you say no to bribe and give your right to information a try.

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