Hospitals often diagnose fake critical illness or serious injuries just to loot hapless patients
Gopal (not his real name) is a young techie working for a big software company in Chennai. One day, he was a bit late to office and was in a hurry. He was trying to park his two-wheeler with his helmet on which was not securely tied as usual. He slipped and fell on his face with the helmet strap cutting his upper lip. His friends got frightened on seeing blood gushing from the mouth and rushed him walking to a nearby five-star hi-tech hospital.
When they reached the hospital, Gopal was rushed into the intensive care unit (ICU) in a wheelchair, although he preferred to walk. No one was allowed inside the ICU for the whole day. Gopal was brainwashed that he had 'serious' head injury. Apparently, everything was normal—including the results of a battery of blood and urine tests. Despite all that, even his three-month-pregnant wife was not allowed to see him. They were told that Gopal was seriously ill and could become unconscious any minute and might throw a violent fit at any time. His life, they said, hangs by a thin thread! The anxious wife almost collapsed and became unconscious herself.
By then, it was late evening and his other relatives got scent of the incident: one of them was an influential man who works with hospitals in Chennai. He insisted on seeing the patient at any cost or else he would get the patient discharged against medical advice. The nursing staff relented and allowed him inside. Incidentally, no medical staff, above the rank of a duty doctor, had seen this ‘seriously’ ill patient whose life was said to be hanging by a thin thread (!) all day, as most of them were in Deepavali mood. What the relative saw there shook him up. It was a large A/C room. One side of the room was separated by a plastic sheet to keep contagious patients being quarantined and the other half was used for such 'fake' serious patients. The nurses refused to show him the CAT-scan and blood reports. Blood was still oozing from the wound and they had not stitched the torn lip wound yet, as they were waiting for their facio-maxillary surgeon who was out for Deepavali holidays. In these hi-tech hospitals, even minor surgery had to be done by a sub-specialist!
It was too much for the relatives to keep him there, under the circumstances. They got the patient discharged against medical advice. The hospital insisted that they pay Rs25,000 on the spot as it is the minimum charge for any patient admitted to their intensive-care unit. The hospital refused to give any certificate or discharge summary for insurance purposes, as patients discharged against advice were not entitled to such luxuries!
This is the new ‘fakery’ syndrome that I am describing. Anyone who goes to the hospital becomes a patient. Most of them have minor ailments; the problems get exaggerated in these hospitals to fake into serious maladies to net a bigger booty from them.
What worries me more is the way the hapless and anxious patients are further pushed into the bottomless pit of anxiety by labelling them as serious, where life hangs by a thin thread. Many a time, they even predict when the patient is going to die without a shred of scientific evidence to predict the unpredictable future of their patients. The last usually happens to cancer patients. The ‘wise’ doctors tell the patient that s/he has a only certain number of months to live and so on! Such scare generation is one of the novel methods of disease mongering. This fakery is the height of ‘health-scare system’ that prevails today. Would the powers that be take a call? Incidentally, our friend Gopal is fine on his own, a bit shaken, though, by the new experience.
“To fake it is to stand guard over emptiness.”— Arthur Herzog.
Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He can be reached at email@example.com
In the 21st December meeting, the first row around the large conference table was packed with SEBI officials and stock exchange reps, while investor associations were relegated to the second and third rows. And the chairman announced that he would leave in 10-15 minutes…
The Securities & Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) attitude to investors is best reflected in the shoddy manner in which it conducted a meeting with representatives of accredited investor associations (IAs) on 21st December 2012. These meetings, which used to be conducted every quarter under previous SEBI chairmen have already been reduced to an exercise that is reluctantly undertaken only when there is pressure over issues such as redress of investor complaints.
The recent meeting with IAs on 21st December has left us surprised and confused about SEBI’s attitude to any meaningful engagement with retail investors or their representatives in the form of SEBI-accredited associations from all over the country. This was evident from the seating arrangement around the large conference table in SEBI’s meeting room. We found that the first row around the large conference table was packed with SEBI officials and representatives of stock exchanges, while we were relegated to the second and third row. This was strange, but it is not the first time this has happened. The last time this happened was during chairman M Damodaran’s tenure and this was corrected only when the representative from the Consumer Education & Research Centre objected. Mr Damodaran was gracious enough to reprimand his officers for the arrangements, nothing of that sort happened this time. Instead, sparks flew from the very beginning, not only because investor representatives (IRs) were offended by the seating but the SEBI chairman compounded it by saying, “I will leave in 10-15 minutes. Senior officials will interact with you and apprise me of the deliberations later”. Naturally sparks flew at the very outset, but what followed was unusual in every way.
Ms Mala Bannerjee, who heads the Federation of Consumer Associations of Bengal, was the first speaker. She took a strong exception to the fact that the chairman planned to leave meeting in 10 minutes and castigated the cavalier manner in which the meeting had been arranged. She spoke about the poor response of SEBI’s officials to IAs and also mentioned that her organization was ignored when investor programmes were conducted in West Bengal. Ms Banerjee was especially scathing about the seating arrangement which belittled IAs by relegating them to the back-benches. “The stock exchanges talk with you daily throughout the year. You should interact with us and not push the non-profit organisations back”, said Ms Bannerjee.
When it was my turn to speak, I said that the chairman’s decision to leave so early is a clear indication that he and SEBI do not consider retail investors and their associations important enough to spend even half a day with them to understand ground realities. I apprised him of the fact that since 2000, IAs meetings used to be full-day affairs; in recent years, in line with the changing attitude to retail investors, they have been curtailed to half-a-day, but successive SEBI chairmen made it a point to be present for the entire period. After all, the preamble to the SEBI Act places primary emphasis on investor protection—a job where IAs play and important role.
I pointed out that I had made the effort to be in Mumbai only on the specific understanding that it would be an opportunity to interact with the chairman. I made it clear that in future, I would not like to attend these meetings unless the chairman intended to be present.
I apprised the chairman of Midas Touch Investors Association’s contribution to investor protection over the past 16 years. We have been invited to depose before the Joint Parliamentary Committee and before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. Our eight public interest litigations (PILs) include the one which forced Canara Bank to pay Rs975 crore to investor during the 1992 scam. We also took the ministry of corporate affairs to court on the “Vanishing Companies” scam which was a hard battle to convince the government about how poor supervision had allowed fly-by-night operators to raise public funds and vanish with the money. The lawsuit ultimately led to the creation of joint coordination committee in 1999, is still struggling to initiate credible action.
Meanwhile, retail investors have lost faith in the capital market and its regulatory system and the investor population has shrunk from two crore in 1992 when the SEBI Act was enacted to half the number after two decades. In the corresponding period, the deployment of financial household savings into the securities market has dropped from over 10% to around 2% while household savings have galloped from Rs100,000 crore to Rs15 lakh crore. This fall is all the more glaring in the face of economic growth numbers. It reflects the failure of SEBI to attract and channel investment in the securities market and reflects an emphatic vote of no confidence in its policies. I then said that it was incomprehensible that SEBI made no effort to see engagement or brain-storming with IAs. A few other IAs also spoke.
Later, chairman UK Sinha tried to explain the situation by saying, “Perhaps some of you are not aware of the way SEBI works and its structure. We consciously took a decision that the chairman would not be a member of the various ‘advisory’ committees set up by SEBI.” This is absolutely incorrect. First, the structure of advisory committees has been followed by several of Mr Sinha’s predecessors, yet they have treated their meetings with IAs very differently because the two simply cannot be equated. Also Mr Sinha suggested that IAs will be overawed to speak frankly in the presence of the chairman although there was no evidence of this at the meeting.
The logic of facilitating a frank discussion in absence of SEBI chairman shows the astounding disconnect between politicians, bureaucracy and the citizens, all too familiar in last two years. The fact is that officials should have the gumption and guts to face questions from the public in open forums.
Among the issues discussed was the proposed “safety net” for investors. IAs made it clear that this seems more like a red-herring since only a small extent of the loss would be covered and allow investment bankers to lure investors by creating the impression among retail investors that their money was 100% safe. We made it clear that we are opposed to any sops, discounts or inducements for enticing retail investors. What we require is reasonable IPO pricing.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes & collective investment schemes (CIS): Mr Sinha in his opening remarks had stated that SEBI was facing great difficulty is dealing with CIS schemes, particularly in West Bengal since the lower courts had a issued stay order on SEBI action when they had no jurisdiction under SEBI Act. He pointed out that SEBI had been forced to go into appeals in the high court; however, they did not provide any details or number of such instances. (However, Moneylife has written about MPS Greenery; ).
Almost all IAs were concerned about MLM companies and some suggested that SEBI should regulate them. I brought up the case of Stockguru India, which collected nearly Rs1,000 crore by promising hefty stock market returns.
Moneylife (and other media organizations as well) had reported this in December 2010 and again in April 2011. SEBI should have acted on these reports. I pointed out that it was obligatory for SEBI to initiate action and impose a penalty u/s 23(g) and 23(h) of the Securities Contracts Regulation Act (SCRA). I pointedly asked: “Does SEBI have any mechanism in place to identify such cheating and take early preventive action?” To the best of my knowledge, it has no such mechanism and structure in place. Chairman Sinha merely replied that SEBI has taken action without providing any specific details.
* Yet another issue that came up for discussion was the non-utilisation of “Investor Protection Funds” by SEBI and “Investors Services Fund” by stock exchanges. The Bombay stock exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) together have anywhere between Rs300-Rs500 crore in their investor services funds. Regional exchanges also have some funds. IAs pointed out that these should be effectively deployed for capacity building of investor associations. The chairman said that, in this, they have to keep CAG’s (Comptroller and Auditor General) objections in mind!
IAs formally registered our strong reservation regarding the arbitrary and non-transparent manner in which various committees (and sub-committees) are constituted by SEBI and their functioning. These committees are packed with the corporate sector representatives, industry bodies, market intermediaries and some academics pointedly leaving retail investors associations, especially the more active ones. There is no criteria for selecting representatives of IAs even after two decades of SEBI’s existence.
In response, Mr Sinha said that they will nominate IAs by rotation so that all the associations get representation. But if SEBI wants meaningful participation of IAs, it needs to combine merit with a policy of rotation. Mr Sinha left soon after the brief interaction with IAs.
A key part of the agenda was a presentation on SCORES, SEBI’s online grievance redress mechanism. We were informed that pending grievances in November 2012 has dropped to around 13,000 from 24,000 on 31st March 2012. Data of grievances received, redressed and other details were not provided. SCORES efficiency was self-appreciated. The data presented for ‘pending’ grievances is simply not credible and demonstrates an obfuscation of facts.
As per SEBI’s own report the unresolved grievances on 31 March 2010 & 2011 were 1,60,593 and 1,50,711 respectively. On 31 March 2012 unresolved grievances were 1,44,439. The reason for the discrepancy is that SEBI has quietly started excluding those pending grievances against whom “regulatory action viz. adjudication, direction or prosecution has been initiated”. On 31 March 2012, regulatory action was in progress with respect to 1,20,714 grievances.
AK Bakliwal of The Bombay Shareholders’ Association drew the attention of SEBI to the fact that companies are not annexing important schedules in their annual/abridged reports.
The tenor and mode of IAs meeting have undergone a significant change. Interaction by senior officials has reduced. They merely note the issues raised and say they will get back in due course. Earlier, they would engage in discussions, express their views and the chairman would, in principle at least, agree on certain matters.
(The author is the president of the Midas Touch Investors Association).
Till three years back, MHA was revealing names of all recommended persons for Padma awards together with names of recommending persons or bodies under RTI. But this year it has refused to reveal names of those recommended for Padma Awards 2013. What it is trying to hide?
Amid reports that yesteryear's superstar Rajesh Khanna may conferred the country’s second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan, it has not come to light that the ministry of home affairs (MHA) is shrinking transparency year after year about selection-procedure of these awards.
According to a reply received by Subhash Chandra Agrawal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, this year the MHA has refused to reveal names of those recommended for the Padma awards. “Till three years back, the MHA had a healthy practice of revealing names of all recommended persons for the Padma awards together with names of recommending persons/bodies under RTI queries. Thereafter the ministry discontinued practice of recommending persons,” the RTI activist said.
Apart from Khanna, who passed away on 18th July, renowned filmmaker of ‘Sholay’ fame Ramesh Sippy is likely to be given Padma Shri on the eve of Republic Day this month, official sources told PTI.
On 26th December, a high level committee, which includes cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, principal secretary to prime minister Pulok Chatterjee, Union home secretary RK Singh, actor Ratna Pathak Shah, scientist Anil Kakodkar, shortlisted the names of this year’s Padma awardees at its meeting.
The names of awardees will be declared on 25 January 2013 after the approval from prime minister Manmohan Singh. Names of Khanna and Sippy were recommended by the ministry of information and broadcasting, sources said.
Here are the points for which RTI Activist Agrawal sought information and the reply provided by Central Public Information Officer (CPIO)...
1. Last date of receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013?
CPIO: Last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 was 20 November 2012
2. Last date of receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2012?
CPIO: Last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 was 20 November 2011
3. Was there some change in last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 from earlier years including in the year 2012?
4. If yes, copies of file-notings/documents/correspondence etc on changing last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 from that in earlier years
CPIO: In view of point 3 above, does not arise
5. Are some more changes made in respect of deciding Padma Awards for 2013?
6. If yes, please provide details together with related file-notings/documents/correspondence etc on making such changes
CPIO: In view of point 5 above, does not arise
7. Is it true that some objections were received at MHA against Padma Awards awarded to certain individuals in the year 2012 also because of non-competence of concerned persons for Padma Awards like also including Arun Firodia who was a wilful defaulter in case of borrowings made from banks as also referred in my RTI application dated 13.08.2012 (wrongly written as 13.03.2012?)
8. If yes, complete information together with related file-notings/ documents/ correspondence etc on remedial steps take to prevent undeserving elements being awarded with Padma Awards?
9. If yes, complete information together with related correspondence
CPIO: (Point 7 to 9) Some objections have been received on conferment of Padma Shri on Shri Arun Firodia. No consolidated report is maintained by this ministry. No action is taken/ proposed to change the Padma Awards procedure on basis of complaints/objections against Padma awards to individuals. (Read Should a wilful defaulter be awarded “Padma Shri” by the government?)
10. Complete list of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 having reached to Union home ministry by the stipulated last date of receiving such nominations also mentioning names of those recommending such nominations, authority through which MHA received such nominations and dates on which such nominations reached separately to recommending authorities and to MHA.
11. Names of members of 'Search Committee' formed to recommend for Padma Awards 2013.
12. Names considered by “Search Committee” for being recommended before Awards Committee for Padma Awards 2013.
13. Names of nominees recommended by “Search Committee” for Padma Awards 2013.
14. Days and time duration on which “Search Committee” met to finalise nominations.
15. Minutes of meetings held by the “Search Committee”.
CPIO: (Points 10 to 15) The procedure for selection of Padma Awards 2013 is under process. Hence the information sought cannot be provided at this stage.
16. Any other related details.
17. File notings on movement of this RTI petition as well.
CPIO: Relevant file noting comprises one page. Applicant is requested to submit a fee of Rs2 @ Rs2 per page as photocopying charge in favour of the Accounts Officer, MHA.
Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Agrawal on 22 December 2012 filed first appeal with the Appellate Authority. He said, “…Rather names of recommended ones and of those recommending should be put on website (by the MHA) so that members of public knowing adverse features of recommended persons may inform the authorities. Likewise public should also know names persons recommending such undeserving recommended personalities. Complete process of selection of Padma awardees including minutes of meetings of Search and Award committees should be put on the website after 26th January."
Coming back to Rajesh Khanna, also a Congress MP from New Delhi constituency from 1992 to 1996, he was never given the Padma award in his lifetime, whereas most of his contemporaries, including Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Hema Malini and Waheeda Rehman, had got one or the other category of Padma awards over the years.
Similarly, producer-director Sippy (65), too, would be a late entrant of the Padma hall of fame, if the government finally selects him for this award. Many producers and directors of his generation have been conferred with the Padma awards through the years.