Anna’s hometown is slowly turning into a centre of learning for people flocking there to hear the Gandhian, who has revived their hopes to build a new India
Senior engineers of the Swedish company Hoganas, Michael Johansson and B Bengtsson, took a detour on their way to Pune, from Ahmednagar (where the Hoganas factory is located) to meet Anna Hazare at Ralegan Siddhi. The otherwise 'model' village that has quietly thrived in undertaking exemplary water conservation and harmonious community living, has metamorphosed into the nerve centre of national news, since Anna's historic hunger protest at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi for a strong anti-corruption bill gathered support nationwide.
Johansson, who is an avid fan of Mahatma Gandhi, having read books and watched several films on the leader and his activity, says enthusiastically, "Anna is a great man and has nice thoughts. I got interested in him when I saw him on Swedish television channels. I have traveled to several countries and have seen that corruption is one of the main reasons holding them back from making proper progress.
"I was fascinated to see Anna's movement which was totally peacefully and for a cause that is a major concern for India. Anna has shown that you can have a nationwide campaign on this issue without a stone being thrown at anyone. I think the world should follow this sterling example of non-violent agitation.'' How does he see the future of this movement? Says Johansson optimistically, "I hope it will have the necessary impact.''
The first visible sign of attention are the OB media vans at the gates of Ralegan Siddhi, and TV journalists nosing around for a new angle in the Anna story. Some weeks ago, one would have found bullock carts parked here, or villagers talking casually by the wayside. "He doesn't meet us these days. Please take an appointment for us," pleads a TV correspondent. Suddenly, a large group of youngsters dressed in blazers descends from the bus. Some of them wear the popular "I am Anna" caps that have become synonymous with the nationwide campaign for the Jan Lokpal Bill.
Back in the village, Anna resides in one of the rooms of the newly-constructed hostel at the Devi Temple. The expansive banyan tree and lush greenery all about give it a heritage setting.
Visitors from all parts of the country flock to Ralegan and yearn for a glimpse of Anna, who has become the symbol of purity and justice.
"I want to meet Anna for just five minutes,'' says one young man, displaying a bouquet of flowers that he has brought along to present to the leader. Another man has brough his three-year-old son along: "He has been seeing Anna on TV. Now he wants to receive his blessings."
Anna's helpers, Suresh Pathare and Anil Sharma, have a tough balancing act. "Anna meets visitors at 11am, 1pm and 4pm," they inform the people gathered about. They don't mind waiting. At about 11.30, Anna walks towards the crowd. Two security men swing open the grill and request the crowd to sit down. Mobile cameras flash, many are switched to video mode. Anna talks to the people, beginning with some points that he made in his speeches at the Ramlila. "Build your families, your wealth, your career, and keep some time for nation building." Youngsters nod in appreciation.
As Anna winds up his exchange and turns back to go to his room, I follow after him. "The most excruciating experience at Ramlila Grounds was the lies that our political leaders indulge in, so brazenly. I am so worried-what will happen to the future of this country if we have such untruthful leaders?'' he says, his eyes reflecting the pain.
But in the next moment they light up: "Something good has come out of it. Earlier, the common man used to think, 'I have no power, I have no money-how can I fight the government?' Now he knows that if he has the desire, the determination, the passion and the faith, he can take on those in power. He knows now that he is an important entity in a democracy."
I wanted to begin my series of interviews with him for the authorised biography on Anna that I am writing. He smiles and says, "I am still feeling weak. I have not recovered completely. Can we talk a couple of days later?'' 'Sure', I said.
Still, I sat around to listen and learn from what is going on. When the Swedish engineers sat down to talk to Anna, he said, "I am proud that the revolution has not been bloody. The person who is doing it has to suffer so that he can spread the message of peace and justice far and wide. The world has become polluted, but there still can be a change. We need a change in leadership-leaders with good character, good thought, the ability to sacrifice and bear humiliation. The leader should be able to pick up a broom and do any menial work too-but leaders these days have big egos and that's the biggest pitfall."
The next visitors bring along a large-sized photo frame of Anna during his fast at Ramlila Grounds… the exchanges and the instructions continue with people who have come to learn Anna "by heart". For Anna, each of them is an epitome of the new struggle of freedom from corruption.
PS: A two-day meeting of the core committee of Team Anna will be held in Ralegan Siddhi this weekend to discuss further strategy in the campaign against corruption. Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan are expected to attend the meeting along with Anna Hazare.
Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia expressed concern over the low rate of health insurance penetration, even among organised sector employees, and said employers need to make efforts for bringing their staff under appropriate covers
New Delhi: The Planning Commission on Friday said expansion of healthcare will be one of its top priorities during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) and it aims to increase spending in the sector to 2.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) from around 1% at present by the end of the period, reports PTI.
"In the 12th Plan, we hope that we will be able to increase the percentage of both central and state government spending (on health) as a percentage of GDP somewhere up to 2.5% from a little over 1%," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told reporters on the sidelines of a Ficci seminar.
The healthcare sector, he said, was a focus area in the ongoing 11th Plan as well and the effort will continue in the 12th Plan.
"We tried to make a start in the 11th Plan, but it has to continue in the 12th Plan. India spends too little on the public sector in health," Mr Ahluwalia said.
In its Approach Paper to the 12th Plan, which was approved by the full Planning Commission headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh last month, the Plan panel had emphasised on increased spending in social sectors, including health and education.
It had also called for greater public-private partnership in the sector.
Mr Ahluwalia, while addressing the seminar, said the Srinath Reddy Committee on healthcare will submit its report by the end of this month.
The high-level expert group was set up by the Planning Commission in 2010 to examine the prospects for a universal health cover and to develop a blueprint and investment plan for meeting the human resource requirement to achieve the objective of health insurance for all by 2020.
Mr Ahluwalia termed current spending on healthcare as 'skewed', with the government contributing only a small portion.
He also said that though the private sector is present in a big way in the health segment, there is a big difference in the quality of service provided by non-state actors.
"In the private sector, there is incredible variety. On the one end, we have some very high-end hospitals and treatment facilities of global standards, which, however, only a fraction of the population can afford and on the other hand, we have hospitals, which are of poor standard," Mr Ahluwalia said.
"We have some of the best doctors in the world and also quacks," the Planning Commission deputy chairman added.
He also expressed concern over the low rate of health insurance penetration, even among organised sector employees, and said employers need to make efforts for bringing their staff under appropriate covers.
"Many people can afford health insurance but they don't go for it. There is a belief on risk-pooling by family and friends in case of any emergency. But, like other social norms, this is also breaking up in India along with the rest of the world," Mr Ahluwalia said.
He said besides the lack of money, the scarcity of qualified healthcare specialists is also a worry in India.
"If you want to do as well as China-and healthcare in China has deteriorated in last 5-10 years as they more or less dismantled their public health system-then India needs twice the personnel it has got... We have a huge human resource shortage," Mr Ahluwalia said.
He cited a study done by the Planning Commission in collaboration with the Registrar General of Census.
"Fifty per cent of the people who in the Census (2001) declared themselves as doctors and who are included in the per capita doctor calculation did not have an educational degree beyond secondary school. So a lot of people who are calling themselves doctors are actually not medical graduates," he said.
According to Mr Ahluwalia, programmes like the National Rural Health Mission have achieved success, but there is a need to replicate the model in urban areas.
He said the Rashtriya Swastya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which provides totally subsidised health insurance to Below Poverty Line (BPL) category families, has been a major success and efforts are on to make rope in all the 370 million people living below the official poverty line under it.
"We are looking at what we can do. A controversial area is the PPP model... There is a lot of resistance to that in healthcare, including from states," he said.
Mr Ahluwalia also said that in many cases of PPP, the venture fails because of the disparate objectives of the public players and private firms.
TA Ramalingam explains that the company is focused on building business for the long term, even if it means taking on a little more risk
Bajaj Allianz General Insurance has had a good run with its product for senior citizens and lately it has even relaxed the tough underwriting conditions, even if it has meant taking on more risk. In an interview to Moneylife, TA Ramalingam, head-underwriting, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, discussed the company's experiences that have led it to take a more balanced approach. Excerpts:
How is the business from Silver Health (senior citizen mediclaim)?
The product covers the age group from 46 to 75 years, with pre-existing covered up to 50% from second year of the policy. It is a medically underwritten product and hence the premium-to-claims ratio is good.
We are aware of the risks and what we are getting into for this product. The regular mediclaim (Health Guard) does not enforce medical test up to age 45 years unless there is some adverse declaration.
We see claims from regular mediclaim rising after the four years pre-existing disease (PED) waiting period. For example, a 40-year-old person without undergoing any medical test, may have claims after four years PED waiting period and increase the loss ratio.
Do you reject a lot of proposals for the senior citizen's product (Silver Health)?
Earlier, the underwriting was tough. We are now looking at the degree of illness. Like, what is the degree of hypertension, diabetes? We have to look at this from a long-term perspective, as people do renew mediclaim in 85% of the cases. If it is small risk over a period of time, we take it.
What we want to underwrite or not is under our purview. Ninety of the 100 cases will be good if properly done. If the illness is major, we may load the premium, or offer the policy with exclusion of the illness (tailor-made policy). But, only 10% will accept such exclusions.
Some insurers have strict underwriting for specific diseases like diabetes. What is your approach to underwriting?
Most Indians suffer from something. If we become extremely strict, the mediclaim portfolio will be dead. We have to give the benefit of the doubt to the customer by not being totally negative. We take a balanced approach to a certain extent and to our degree of comfort.
Somewhere, we also take a risk. Sometimes, the sum insured is low and we experiment. If we do 100% perfect underwriting we will loose business. We try new things. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we do not. We have learned a lot by experience.
The process is constant feedback from the in-house claims processing team. Based on the claims experience and the rich data over the years, we refine the underwriting. A certain customer segment may have few claims that could lead to a trend of losses. It may be something we ignored or waived. We make a decision to go ahead or not in future so that it does not have adverse impact on the portfolio. We do a post-mortem of our decisions and take corrective measures. There are latest findings from medical journals and we will factor it in underwriting.
Why not enforce medical test for the regular mediclaim (Health Guard) scheme?
If we underwrite 200 policies per day, may be 50 have problems. If I make all 200 people go for a medical, it will handicap the marketing of the product. It will be considered too procedural when compared to competitors who may underwrite quickly.
With Silver Health (senior citizen product), customers are mentally prepared for a medical exam at the age of 45 years and above. If we find over the next one or two years that there is need to reduce the medical exam age (based on loss ratio), we may reduce it to 40 years or lower (Health Guard). Today, it has not reached the danger mark.
Is there any worry over the loss ratio?
We have to constantly monitor it. We have to attract new business to subsidise the loss ratio, else we will end up with an aging population on our books. We have to be fair to existing customers and continue their renewals as per product policy terms.