Hindustan Times

The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has come under fire from various quarters after a query under the Right to Information Act revealed that the state government cleared the medical bills worth 1.39 crore towards the Covid-19 treatment of its 17 ministers and their family members at private hospitals in the last two years.

Now, questions are being raised why the ministers could not take treatment at public hospitals and why they could not bear the expenses if they chose private facilities.

According to the information given by the general administration department, the government spent 1,39,26,720 on the treatment of 13 cabinet ministers, four ministers of state, and their family members. The data was obtained by Nashik-based journalist Dipti Raut two weeks ago.

Of them, the maximum amount of 34.41 lakh was paid for the treatment of health minister Rajesh Tope and his family members, followed by 17.64 lakh for energy minister Nitin Raut, 14.56 lakh for rural development minister Hasan Mushrif, and 12.57 lakh for minister of state Abdul Sattar.

Of the 43 ministers, more than 25 tested positive for Covid-19 and most of them were hospitalised in south Mumbai hospitals in the first and second waves of the pandemic. Some of them were infected twice. As per the provisions in the law, ministers, their spouses, and children under 18 years of age are entitled to 100% reimbursement of medical expenses.

In the financial year 2019-2020, ministers from the previous Devendra Fadnavis government too had claimed reimbursements. Girish Bapat had claimed 13.79 lakh, while Vijay Shivtare’s hospital bills cleared by the government were worth 13.33 lakh.

While the medical expenditure on the ministers is borne by the state government, more than 850 incumbent and former legislators get health insurance for them and their family members up to 15 lakh a year by the legislature. In case of additional expenditure, it is spent from the corpus fund of 5 crore offered by the insurance company. The state legislature pays 15 crore towards the premium against the mediclaim. Five years ago, the legislature switched to group mediclaim from the actual bill reimbursement after it received complaints of fake bills. “There is no room left for manipulation now as the bills are settled by a third party,” an official from the state legislature said.

An order issued by the state in the past has also said the ministers and the legislators should prefer government hospitals for treatment.

Most of the ministers who have claimed the bills from the state government owned properties worth crores of rupees, as per the poll affidavits they had filed in 2019. Ashok Chavan’s assets were estimated at 50 crore, while Tope’s assets were valued at 53.98 crore. Chhagan Bhujbal’s declared assets were 26.94 crore, while Mushriff had declared his properties worth 10.62 crore, Nawab Malik’s assets were valued at 5.74 crore, and Anil Parab’s assets were estimated at 20.20 crore.

Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said he paid the bills for treatment when he was admitted to a private hospital. “I cannot comment why other ministers did claim the reimbursement from the state kitty. You will have to ask them,” he said.

Water resources minister Jayant Patil said, “This is not happening for the first time. It has been the practice for years. The expenditure of the medical treatment of legislators and ministers is borne by the government and the list has the names of ministers in the previous government too.”

“The medical bills paid by the government are against the expenditure for my mother. I was hospitalised with Covid-19 infection but have not claimed even a single penny from the government,” Tope said.

Girish Bhave of Jan Arogya Abhiyan said treatment for the ministers and their relatives must be made mandatory at public hospitals if the quality of these hospitals was to improve. “By taking treatment at public hospitals, the ministers admit that they do not believe in their own health infrastructure. Barring AIIMS in Delhi, no other public hospital is known to treat politicians from the respective states. Maharashtra is in the top five states when it comes to the gross state domestic product, but it is among the bottom five in budgetary spending on health services,” he added.

Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of Association for Democratic Reforms, questioned why the elected representatives could not take treatment at government hospitals and send their children to government schools. “It is the hypocrisy of the highest order that the politicians prefer private hospitals, when poor people are left with no option but to go to government hospitals which are not in good shape. Why can’t the government set up schools and hospitals, which are key areas of fundamental human development, better than the private sector? This is a sad part of our political system,” he said.

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method