LOCAL BODIES, Culture and Tourism Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday left his Cabinet colleague and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra red-faced on Friday when the former visited a hospital in Mohali and paid a cheque for the treatment of renowned playwright Ajmer Singh Aulakh, whose treatment was being taken care of by Mohindra’s department. Sidhu told The Indian Express on phone late on Friday evening that he had made the payment from his “own pocket”.
Sidhu visited the hospital around the time the health minister issued a statement at 4:57 pm that the state government was “committed to bearing the expenses of his treatment”. Sidhu handed over a cheque of Rs 8 lakh to the Aulakh family before catching a flight to Mumbai.
In a statement, Mohindra termed the hospital bill “inflated” and said he had brought it to the CM’s notice, besides taking it up with the hospital authorities. Mohindra, who had visited the playwright in hospital recently, told The Indian Express, “I had called up the hospital and told them to send us the bill. Everything was settled. It is good of him (Sidhu) that he gave a cheque of Rs 8 lakh. But, since I was talking on behalf of the government, he should have coordinated with me on this matter.”
Asked why his department did not act quickly as Sidhu did, he said, “When the government issues any order, it means we will do it.” Sidhu said he felt the pain of the family and paid the money from his own pocket.
“It was my duty to help a playwright, who is terminally ill… Somebody came and told me [about the matter] and I visited the hospital. I cleared the dues from my own pocket. It is not a question of undermining any Cabinet colleague because I didn’t pay it from the government account. I have no issues with Brahm uncle. I touch his feet and I have played in his lap during my childhood and he is like father to me,” he said.
The issue of Aulakh’s financial condition has been hanging fire for over a fortnight when Aulakh’s plight was reported by the media. CM Captain Amarinder Singh had announced that all expenses of his treatment would be borne by the government and assigned Mohindra to ensure the family was helped monetarily. Since then, the government has already paid Rs 2 lakh to the hospital.
Till now, around Rs 16 lakh has been charged by the hospital for treatment of which Rs 2 lakh has been paid by the government last time and the family, too, paid Rs 5 lakh on its own. An amount of Rs 1.38 lakh was waived by the hospital, Mohindra had said. After that, Aulakh’s family members said another bill of around Rs 7.5 lakh had been raised by the hospital. Following reports, Mohindra issued a statement on Friday that his department had asked the hospital authorities to divert the bill for payment to the Punjab government.