Couple of weeks earlier the state cabinet of Kerala gave approval for Rs 1,548 crore internet project across the state. This was after the State recognised ‘Internet’ as a basic right. The entire social media applauded this gesture and hailed the Left for their visionary project.
But at what cost does this ‘basic right’ come? The answer is, at the cost of another basic right. Kerala has been witnessing one of the most perilous economic slumps in the history. The major revenue source of the state was from NRI remittances over the years. Kerala accounts for over 19% of inward remittances into the country. Recent CDS (Centre for Development Studies) surveys shows sharp decline in the number of migrants and since 2017 banks have recorded almost 70% shortfall in NRI remittances. And as a consequence, Kerala has been slipping into severe economic fall. Adding to the misery, the state was plagued by severe floods in the past couple of years.
For a state that has the second highest mobile penetration rate (54%) why is the government willing to take up such a huge financial burden?
The Karunya Arogya Suraksha Paddhati (KASP) scheme that provides health coverage of Rs 5 lakhs to ordinary people and working class has been clogged up for the past so many months. 34 hospitals including Government run hospitals that offered expensive treatment to the poor under this scheme are now financing these treatments from their own funds.
Even after the earlier insurance scheme under the name Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme suffers a debt of Rs 70 crores, the Kerala Government has not learnt its lesson in carrying out smooth execution of such insurance schemes. Private hospitals have stated that they will not be able to provide any more free treatment to KASP cardholders since the government owes these hospitals huge amounts of debt in the form of premiums. With the claims having crossed Rs 330 crore, the government has only paid Rs 102 crores along with some Centre aid, totalling to Rs. 166 crores.
It was only when the insurance company had pointed out the heavily increasing outstanding premiums that the State Government released a portion of it, that too under duress.
This grievous short coming, according to health department sources, are because of Government’s administrative inefficiency. The Kerala Government refused to constitute a State Health Agency to run the scheme fearing the huge investment it would require, instead they re-designated the existing nodal agency Comprehensive Health Insurance Agency Kerala (CHAIK) as the SHA and appointed a special officer to govern the KASP.
The sources tell that when the CHAIK had independent authority, it had always paid the premium without any hassle and delay but now since KASP’s finance side is directly handled by the government premium payments had been delayed way over acceptable limits. It was only when the insurance company had pointed out the heavily increasing outstanding premiums that the State Government released a portion of it, that too under duress.
The experts claim that KASP was never meant to be run in trust mode. In such schemes the government should only take the responsibility to pay the premium while the insurance companies actually run the scheme.
Now, let me put all this into perspective. The Kerala State Government has effortlessly approved a huge project of free internet that will cost the state exchequer a whopping amount of Rs 1,548 crores while a project that is supposed to be the lifeline of millions in the state is gasping for air as it drowns in debt and administrative negligence.
The LDF government through its ignorance and ideological arrogance have time and again roiled various projects and schemes
For a state that has the second highest mobile penetration rate (54%) why is the government willing to take up such a huge financial burden? The government has been brilliantly putting off such consequential matters while buffing up trivial achievements that is of no service to the actual burning issues of the State. The biggest testimony of this is the incident that broke hearts all over the state last week when a 10 year old student died after having bitten by a snake inside the classroom. This government had always been in the front row to talk about the robust educational system in the state and take undue credit for the same when the reality is that the state government has been failing to maintain the system the way they had received it from the previous government.
The LDF government through its ignorance and ideological arrogance have time and again roiled various projects and schemes. Their desperation to project themselves as the 21st century saviors and their toxic need to be hailed as the heroes of the state has caused nothing but damage to the economic and cultural integrity of the state.
The people of Kerala need to ask this government if they have got their priorities right. Is free internet cardinal than lives of poor people waiting in line for some ‘karunya’ (compassion)?