In govt, health means stealth: The Telegraph
Calcutta: An extremely sensitive issue few want to discuss on record but laden with public interest has reared its head following the death of Subhas Chakraborty: the state of the Bengal cabinet’s health.
Chakraborty had to steer the transport ministry through one of its most tumultuous phases, though he was suffering from cancer — an unsettling but not uncommon ailment the government shied off from referring to in public.
At least three ministers in the current cabinet have health problems that can be aggravated by the strain of ministerial responsibilities. But the government yesterday passed up an opportunity to allow them to call it a day and find fresh hands.
Some of these ministers have been relieved of additional berths but they still hold charge of some crucial portfolios with a direct link to everyday life of citizens — an area where public interest comes into play.
An obsession with status quo — the hallmark of governance in Bengal since Nandigram — is a key factor behind the reluctance to rock the boat. But equally responsible is a high degree of discomfiture — not just in Bengal but in many parts of the country where political leaders continue to defy the tribulations of age and rule — in discussing matters of health even when they have a direct impact on governance.
This is a furtive trait many political establishments of the country share with some communist regimes. During the Soviet era, rare television appearances by communist leaders were closely watched by the West for clues to their health. The iron curtain was so firmly in place on matters medical that the rest of the world had to wait for days before deaths were made public.
The US has a tradition of making public details of the President’s medical tests. Politicians’ health attracts so much dissection there — fuelled also by the fear of destructive powers, symbolised by the nuclear button, being wielded by those not in the pink of their health — that it also becomes a potent campaign weapon sometimes.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign released his medical records (“lean and muscular with no excess body fat”), apparently to contrast the exhaustive details (cholesterol 173 — normal under 200) with the long medical history of opponent John McCain who eventually lost the election.
But in Bengal and most parts of the country, keeping people informed of the health status of the leaders is more an exception than the norm, unless when Prime Ministers or leaders such as Jyoti Basu are hospitalised.
The people should be kept informed of the state of health of ministers who handle important portfolios, according to retired IAS officer Dipak Ghosh.
“Probably with the exception of North Korea, the health condition of political persons occupying high public office in every country is made known to the people if they are unwell. CPM ministers who are suffering from ill health are being made to carry on. This should not have happened,’’ Ghosh said.
Not that the subject is not being discussed in the corridors of power, though under the breath. An IAS officer, who declined to be named, said: “We were discussing among ourselves…. It was not correct on the part of Alimuddin Street to keep Subhasbabu as transport minister after knowing about his deteriorating health.
“He had to handle the transport department during this turmoil (phase-out of polluting vehicles). The party hasn’t been kind to these ailing ministers as well as to the government by keeping them.”
But a member of the CPM state committee, which finalised the token shuffle yesterday, said: “The departments (retained by the unwell ministers) are important and cannot be handed over to inexperienced people when our party has lost ground and only 20 months are left for the Assembly polls. Our party is aware that Mrinalda, Nirupamda, Sailenda and Gautam are not keeping well. But we can’t afford to be over-adventurous.”
Nirupam Sen, one of the ministers referred to by the CPM leader, has had some health complaints but they have so far not become big hurdles to his duties.
The CPM leadership has not tinkered with Deb’s portfolios, though he was forced to be on bed rest. “His condition has improved, but the problem might relapse in the event of which he may need surgery,” a doctor said.
But a CPM leader said: “Gautam is not being considered seriously ill by the party and hence need not demit office now.”
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- Zee Media Exclusive: Kangana, Madhavan talk about their film 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns'
- DNA: Harmful chemicals found in Maggi, Nestle India still in denial mode
- CM Kejriwal shortlists 39 'unwanted' IAS officers in Delhi
- Rajasthan: Gujjars revive reservation agitation, block rail track
- Zee Media Exclusive interview with Congress leader Kamal Nath
- DNA: Modi-led NDA govt's hits and misses in one year
- J Jayalalithaa sworn-in as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
- Mumbai: One injured in shootout at Film City
- ISIS to buy first nuclear weapon from Pak?
- Mumbai: CCTV captures assailant with gun at Film City
- Dr Subhash Chandra Show: Aspiring for more than what you have!
- BJP now central pole of Indian politics: Arun Jaitley
- Zee Media Exclusive chat with 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns' cast Kangana, Madhavan
- Maharashtra FDA sends Maggi noodles for lab testing
- Mathura SSP receives death threat letter, message for PM Modi
- IPL 2015, Qualifier 2: CSK vs RCB - As it happened...
- Tanu Weds Manu Returns movie review: Kangana Ranaut steals the show!
- India to soon have its own space shuttle!
- PM Narendra Modi graces Digvijay Singh's son wedding reception
- Rahul Gandhi to pressurise govt to act on one-rank-one-pension issue
- Goa Board SSC Exam Results 2015 announced
- ISIS close to buying nuclear weapon from Pakistan?
- CBSE 12th Results 2015: CBSE Board Cbse.nic.in & cbseresults.nic class 12th XII board exam Results 2015 date announced
- Manohar Parrikar visits forward areas along LoC, reviews security situation
- Businessman shot next to Amitabh Bachchan's shooting location in Mumbai Film City
- RBSE 12th Science & Commerce Board Result 2015 declared
- There will be no delay in appointing CIC, CVC: Jitendra Singh
- RBSE rajresults.nic.in & rajeduboard.nic.in 12th Results 2015: BSER Ajmer Rajasthan Board Class 12th XII Senior Secondary Science & Commerce Exam Results 2015 declared
- Credibility of Prime Minister's Office restored by BJP, says Arun Jaitley
- CBSE Board 10th Results 2015: Cbse.nic.in & Cbseresults.nic class 10th X board exam results 2015 date announced