PATNA: Rats have an uncanny way of infiltrating the sociopolitical discourse in Bihar. After being accused of gulping away lakhs of litres of confiscated liquor in the prohibition-bound state and also weakening river embankments to cause their collapse, the rodents have now been blamed for malfunctioning of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojna (PMJAY) in the state.
Hundreds of people from deprived families who reached the Sadar Hospital at Ara, the district headquarters town of Bhojpur district, to avail themselves of gold cards under the scheme were turned away for five days because the computer systems were damaged by rats.
Under PMJAY, the central government’s flagship health insurance scheme launched in September last year, people carrying the gold cards can seek treatment at any government hospital or any empanelled private hospital across the country for free. The scheme provides annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family to people listed in the Socio-Economic Caste Census of 2011 for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
“The issuance of gold cards was halted because wires of the computers and printers at the office were damaged by the rats. The systems are being repaired,” said Manoj Kumar, manager of the Sadar Hospital at Ara.
The hospital premises also witnessed protests by people who had come from remote rural areas to get the gold cards. According to sources, the issuance of gold cards has been slow in several districts of Bihar for the past two months.
“After the rats damaged the computer systems at the hospital, work of the transaction management system (TMS) of PMJAY has also been badly hit. The process would be normalized in a day or two,” said Dr Pratik, the in-charge civil surgeon of Bhojpur district.
More than 1.08 core families in Bihar would be covered under PMJAY. When the scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had hailed it as the “best scheme for the poor” and said that the state government would implement it with “total perseverance and transparency” in all the 38 districts.
In October last, a nine-day-old infant died at the government-run Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) allegedly because rats bit its fingers and toes. After floods hit Bihar’s northern and eastern parts in August 2017, two ministers had said that rats had weakened the river embankments and caused breaches.
The police in Bihar, where total prohibition was imposed in April 2016, had claimed in May 2017 that rats had gulped down a significant part of confiscated liquor kept in police station storerooms.