Monday, April 4, 2011

'Reference material' for Manmohan Singh-Rajat Gupta article

Where did I get the information that formed the basis of the claims I made in the article on the PM's relationship with former McKinsey boss?

I received an email last week from a public health research scholar from Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who had read “with interest” my article on ‘Manmohan Singh’s public-private partnership with Rajat Gupta’.

He wrote that “it would be nice” if I could publish the article in some magazine and that he would be “immensely indebted” if I could provide him with some “reference material” especially about PHFI.

The following is my reply to the research scholar, which deals with the question: ‘Where did I get the information and what was the basis of the claims I made in the article mentioned above?’

Dear sir,

Thanks for reading the article and writing back to me.

The email accompanying the article as well as a note at the bottom of the article say that all facts and figures cited in the write-up are taken or derived from public domain.

It should be very easy to check this claim, especially for a research scholar like you.

Just Google the key words from the article and you will find everything thrown up at you!

For example:

(a) How do I know who sits on PHFI's board?

It’s there on PHFI's website.

(b) How can I say that the central government contributed Rs 65 crore to the initial corpus of PHFI?

It’s there on the Web in the form of several governmental communications (including those by the Press Information Bureau or PIB) and media reports. Here's a link to a PIB press release on the Centre's initial contribution:

http://pib.nic.in/release/rel_print_page1.asp?relid=16832

(c) How can I say that the Centre allocated additional money to PHFI – Rs 36.15 crore in annual plan for 2007-08?

It’s there on the website of the ministry of health and family welfare. Read page 61 of the PDF on the following link.

http://www.mohfw.nic.in/FINAL_HEALTH_MINISTRY_ANNUAL_REPORT_2008-09.pdf

(d) How can I claim “Manmohan gave PHFI virtual carte blanche to recast the entire public health system in the country?”

If you read the text of the PM's speech at the launch of PHFI in March 2006 on the Web link given above, it will be very difficult for you to reach any other conclusion.

Then take a look at what has been happening subsequently -- PHFI's role in public health policy issues, important committees, NRHM, etc., not to mention the fact that its programmes, including IIPHs', have been entirely supported by public resources amounting to hundreds of crores of rupees.

There are things not included in the article.

For example, K Srinath Reddy not only heads the high-level expert group on universal health coverage set up by the Planning Commission, but PHFI acts as the secretariat of this panel.

(Read an interview with Reddy carried by Business Today on

http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/k.srinath-reddy-on-limited-healthcare-in-india/1/11925.html)

PHFI has been given this position and these privileges despite the fact that its public character is a non-existent thing. Its accountability to Indian citizens or their representatives is zero.

Neither the public-private agreement, nor PHFI's memorandum of association and registration details are in public domain.

Despite being run by public funds, PHFI is outside the purview of RTI Act and CAG. That in itself an illegality and nothing short of a big-ticket financial scam considering that total financial help from the government runs into thousands of crores of rupees.

PHFI is not directly responsible to Parliament or any legislative assembly.

All of its governance and finances are hidden from public view.

You can find more stuff, if you do more Google research.

For example, the government has been lying to the parliamentary committees about PHFI's character, governing board and functioning.

Read the report of the Department-related Parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare on action taken by the government on the recommendations/observations contained in the 16th report on demands for grants 2006-07 on the following link.

http://164.100.24.167/book2/reports/health/20threport.htm

While the standing committee cautioned the government – specifically in relation to PHFI -- about companies grabbing cheap land from the government for providing poor medical services and expressed its serious concern over PPPs penetrating the state health systems, the government responded by saying that its nominees on PHFI board would ensure that the foundation would function “with complete transparency”.

That's a lie because PHFI has nothing to do transparency. In fact, a few weeks ago, the central information commissioner and other demanders of transparency in PPPs got a slap in the face from Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a member of the PHFI board and deputy chair of the Planning Commission, who virtually told them to buzz off!

(Google the key words to find news reports on Montek's response to CIC.)

Bear in mind that the RTI Act came into force in October 2005, well before PHFI came into existence.

The government might also have told another lie to the parliamentary standing committee by claiming that DG, ICMR, was on the governing board of PHFI, taking health ministry's representation to three.

I don’t think DG, ICMR, was ever on the PHFI governing board until the recast of the board in the middle of March 2011 in the wake of formal charging of Rajat Gupta in the Galleon case, even though it will have to be verified.

This claim might have been made to show that the government had adequate representation in and control of PHFI.

(e) What is the basis of my claims about the courses run by PHFI’s IIPHs, such as the claim that they primarily admit in-service government-funded candidates to their courses and that these courses are not accredited by any statutory regulator?

Visit PHFI website to read the details of the courses. For more information, call the PHFI guy in charge of sharing information with those seeking admission.

(f) Where did I get the details about state governments’ contribution of land and money to building IIPHs under PPP mode?

Numerous news reports available on the Web.

(g) How did I come up with numbers about ISB’s fee collections?

PGP course fee and intake for various academic years are in public domain through numerous news reports. Do the simple arithmetic.

(h) How can I claim that Manmohan Singh intermediated ISB-Hyderabad’s expansion into Mohali, Punjab?

Again published news reports about PM's role and my journalistic sense that such a sweetheart deal for ISB promoters in the face of strong public opposition could not have been possible without Rajat Gupta & Co. playing their trump card, i.e. PM’s intermediation.

(i) Why did I not include references and end notes in this article?

Because I was writing with a view to communicate some common sense about Manmohan Singh-Rajat Gupta shenanigans. Including references and end-notes would have made the article look highbrow and scared off the common readers. In any case, I never expected even a popular newspaper or magazine to have the moral courage to publish this stuff, let alone serious journals whose attitudes don’t make me any more hopeful.

Sir, you don’t have to be “immensely indebted” to me for anything; just do some Google research of your own.

It’s a pity that you have to look for “reference material” about an organisation that owes its existence to (1) a government that is democratically elected and is answerable to the citizens through Parliament, CAG, various laws and democratic institutions, (2) an organisation that claims to be working in ‘public health’ domain, (3) an organisation that’s functioning with taxpayer money.

That itself speaks volumes about the deep hole that India is in, not to mention this gargantuan fraud called ‘public-private partnerships’.

I too believe that it would be nice if some magazine or journal published some critical stuff about PHFI and other shenanigans of Rajat Gupta & Co. Unfortunately, I am neither an owner of a magazine/newspaper, nor publisher or editor.

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