In his first speech as Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday urged police to arrest and punish anyone who sports an AAP cap and engages in “hooliganism”. He said he was told that this had happened at public hospitals during the previous AAP government’s 49-day tenure.
A day later, Health Minister Satyendra Jain told Newsline that “trained” AAP volunteers would be deployed in hospitals to oversee their functioning. As Kejriwal pointed out in his speech, “unruly elements” couldn’t be “actual party volunteers”, he emphasised.
“Last time, there was a problem because random people would wear AAP caps and engage in hooliganism, disrupting work in hospitals. I remember an elderly gentleman who entered my office sporting an AAP cap when I was the health minister. He threatened me to get his work done fast. I found out that he had nothing to do with the party,” Jain, one of only two ministers from the old Cabinet, said.
He said last time, the AAP trained 140 volunteers and deployed them in hospitals. That number will be increased this time, he added. “We had properly trained the volunteers, who did very good work in hospitals during those 49 days.”
On the role of the volunteers, Jain said they would act as “checks” in the system. “Obviously, volunteers are not meant to treat patients. They will be deployed to check if work, as is mandated, is being done. For example, if patients are getting timely treatment, whether medicines are available, whether anyone is seeking bribes and hospitals and toilets are clean,” he said.
Cautioning party leaders, Kejriwal said on Saturday, “Some people told me that during the last AAP government, people wearing AAP caps would walk into hospitals and engage in hooliganism. Such people cannot be AAP members. I want to tell all authorities and police officers that if you see anyone wearing an AAP cap and doing anything against the law, please arrest them immediately and give them double the punishment mandated by law.”
On his priorities, Jain, who chaired his first meeting on swine flu barely an hour after taking oath, said he would make the two super specialty hospitals in Tahirpur and Janakpuri functional at the earliest.
“Like these two hospitals, there are several others which have been completed, but are not available to patients for years. My first focus will be to work out a system to make these functional at the earliest,” he said.
On the AAP’s promise of adding 40,000 new emergency beds and 5,000 maternity beds, the minister said capacity-building would be carried out “in a phased manner”. “We have promised to add new beds and we will get to that on a war-footing. But capacity-building takes time and will happen in a phased manner. Till then, we will ensure patients do not have problems in accessing existing facilities and day-to-day hospital activities are made easier for patients,” Jain said.