Thursday, November 26, 2020
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Nagaland Medical College: A Tragedy?

Dr. Salikyu, North East Christian University
On Monday 25th November 2019, at the front page of the Morung Express, a news headline read: “Full Central Share of Rs. 171. 10 Cr Released for Nagaland Med College.” The headline states that the Central Government has completely released its funds for the construction of “a Medical College at Naga Hospital in Kohima.” This was stated by the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey. On such an occasion, a sense of tragedy filled my soul. Mainly because the people of Nagaland are taken for a ride left and right. It was more out of pity that I felt this sense of tragedy.
The tragedy is that instead of feeling jubilant, I felt sad and quite depressing. It was rather a sad occasion because, based on the unrestrained corruption (of all sorts) in our state, I can only imagine the release of Rs. 171.10 Crores to be good news for the politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, and contractors, involved in the construction of medical college (which is estimated to be Rs. 189 Crores). Indeed, if the central government had fully released its share of the fund (based on 90:10 Central-State ratio for the project), then it is probably safe to assume that the money is already allocated to the Chief Minister, who customarily gets a share, the ministers (and, not to forget, their personal assistants) along with the hordes of bureaucrats (in the secretariat and directorate) of the nodal department, and engineers and the contractor(s) involved in the project.
After all the persons involved have received their share, the meagre amount that is left for the construction will hardly qualify to finish the building of the medical college. Certainly, due to the paltry amount, compromises will be made on the structural construction (as well as electrification and water supply) of the medical college by utilizing sub-standard materials (sand, cement, bricks, electrical wires, water pipes, windows, doors, office furniture, medical equipment, and other necessities). If this sounds too far-fetched, I recommend the astute citizens to check out the conditions of our government universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, offices. You’ll get what I mean. I am also reminded of the construction of High Court in Nagaland, what a farce. These are our present facts, present realities. Just a glance at these essential government institutions is like a slap in the face of the poor. The government of Nagaland (and those who are tasked with the responsibility to be the caretaker of the society) is slapping the poor for being poor. That is indeed quite harsh. Yet, this is the reality.
Furthermore, even after the completion (which I am assuming with very high probability that it will be delayed due to lack of funds to complete on time) of our state’s medical college, another tragedy that awaits us (the poor general public) is the rampant nepotism that will show its ugly face when it comes to the recruitment of medical administrators, staffs, doctors, faculties, as well as service providers (college canteens, stationery shops, drivers, and so forth). Once again, if these seem unlikely, I humbly direct your attention to the recruitment processes in the various government universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, offices, etc.
No doubt, the government officials and departments will loudly claim that there are rules, regulations, and various other standards and criteria in place for construction as well as for the recruitment processes. Yet, presently these rules, regulations, and other sets of laws and standards are profusely violated (most of us do know about these happenings, it is more or less an open secret in Nagaland). For instance, even most admissions for doctoral degrees as well as most faculty recruitments in Nagaland University are drastically compromised by nepotism of various sorts, where criteria, processes, rules, and regulations are observed only for the sake of ‘formality.’ ‘Formality’ only to give an appearance of legitimacy and that procedure has been followed, when in reality seats for doctoral admissions and faculties are recruited in advanced. Who is to say that such will not happen or be the case with the admission and recruitment processes of the medical college when it is completed and functioning?
The tragedy keeps piling up if we also consider the implications or consequences of such mismanagement of government funds as well as with the discrepancies in the recruitment processes. For starters, the medical college buildings will no doubt be sub-standard, just like any other run-down government schools, colleges, and universities that fill the landscape of Nagaland. This will be supplemented by sub-standard or lack of proper and appropriate medical equipment. And to put the cherry on top, because the recruitment will predominantly be done along the lines of nepotism (i.e. along a tribal, family, clan, land-owners’ line, personal, political connections), it will negatively affect the quality of medical education for those unfortunate students who will be studying there. Apart from the lack of disciplined and dedicated support administrative staff, the faculties of the medical college, who are to be recruited, will lack quality or sub-standard. Precisely because the recruitment, for the most part, will be based neither on quality nor on recruiting the best; rather it will be based on personal, tribal, family, political, economic connections.
As a result, those who pass out from our yet-to-be state’s medical college will be below par and highly under-educated, in terms of medical knowledge and skills. And because those medical graduates will be far below the national average or third-grade, they will go on to harm and cause irreparable damage to the lives of the patient and their families because of their medical negligence. To be blunt, these sub-standard doctors will not only cause harm but also the death of patients due to their lack of medical prudence and knowledge. This is blatantly evident even today; we do not even have to wait until the completion and functioning of the medical college. Go to the numerous sub-divisions and rural areas in Nagaland and check their medical facilities and doctors who are tasked to look after the health of the community. Most of these health care services and facilities are abysmal and appalling. In most of these places, going to a doctor is equivalent to going to one’s own death.
However, these scenarios (which I am afraid are highly probable) can be avoided only if (and that’s a big “IF”) the money is not shared or mismanaged or misappropriated; the recruitments, especially, of faculties and supporting staffs are based on fairness, equal opportunity, and without bias/nepotism. But to do these things, it requires a “Political Will.” Without this political will, the above scenarios are dangerously plausible. It is indispensable to remind ourselves that a strong political will is essential to limit and restrain corruptions. The question now is: Do the present politicians and the PDA government have enough political will to bring about the “Change” they so often espoused before and during the last general election? Or, was their “change” just a part of a political ploy, a political gimmick to fool and mislead the citizens of Nagaland? Or, is the “Change” stuck somewhere in the national highway due to landslide and waiting for the four-lane road to be completed?
(On E-Mail)

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