The watchdog on health should be up and doing
If there was a more opportune time to bring the health ministry under an exhaustive scrutiny, it was during the peak period of the pandemic. We believe that with an impending second wave of the pandemic, the health ministry's preparedness, its operational plans to deal with the second wave, which even the prime minister has cautioned the country about, should be put through the sieve in the parliamentary standing committee on health. She has alerted the other relevant agencies to take preparatory measures, and it is the ministry of health that will be at the frontline in combatting the pandemic.
Although, the shock and awe of the pandemic was overwhelming, one needs hardly recount the shoddy work of the health ministry, in spite of the World Health Organization's detailed instructions on dealing with the pandemic. And in spite of the task force set up by the administration, the lack of coordination between various ministries had blunted our response to the pandemic in many respects. We feel that the parliamentary standing committee can play an important part in not only ensuring that mistakes are corrected but also, through regular oversight, ensure that every agency is working as per standard procedures and that the task force can perform according to its terms of reference. More importantly, and it has nothing to do with the pandemic alone, it is important for the committee to wield its stick to remove the virus of corruption that has itself taken an endemic form in the ministry of health.
It is thus surprising that since March of this year, the parliamentary standing committee on health ministry has not felt it necessary to meet even once, given the mismanagement that one witnessed in the health sector during the height of the pandemic. In fact, it has held only six meetings since it was formed in January 2019. We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic prevented normal functionings of the administration, but there were IT facilities, and even the courts had functioned online.
We believe that the health of the health ministry is not in a good state. The standing committee can a do a lot to cure its ailments by regular oversight and holding the persons running the ministry and it various departments to account. It should meet at least once a month as per the terms of reference.