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Failed System


There is rightful furore in Rajasthan over the suicide committed by a government woman doctor after a case of ‘murder’ was filed against her by the police for the death of a patient. It may or may not have been a case of medical negligence, but, in no way could it have been murder. She took the drastic step probably because she could not suffer the disgrace and lacked the necessary support system to psychologically confront the problem.

After the uproar that followed, the government ‘punished’ two senior police officials by transferring them. In their case, it was clearly an act of investigative negligence that led to her suicide, but they are privileged persons and a rap on the knuckle is considered sufficient – forget about having to face murder charges.

If such a tragedy can befall a doctor in government service, one can only imagine the suffering of the common person who falls into the net of the police or other officials exercising similar draconian powers without checks and balances. And, as always – a reality that will have pushed the ill-fated doctor to the edge – there is little hope of obtaining justice within a reasonable period of time given the condition of the judicial system.

The problem, of course, is not confined to Rajasthan. Nowhere in the country is a system that functions efficiently enough to be described as up to 21st Century standards. Despite efforts by the occasional government, the system has barely advanced from the oppressive nature of the British Raj. Even unions and associations that are supposed to look after the interests of members fail to provide relief, as most are rendered ineffective due to internal politics. Everybody is left to fend for themselves.

Institutional reform is needed, of course, but whenever the attempt is made it is never comprehensive enough. This makes officialdom even more confident of its invincibility. Politicians should realise that unless they address this problem, it is they who will face the brunt of the people’s disgruntlement. The general culture of administration has to be raised through a system of accountability. Standards have to be set and meaningful performance appraisals undertaken. If this is not done, society will break just as the woman doctor did and go into a negative loop that will be hard to reverse. When societies and systems collapse, there are always reasons for it.