Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s decision to overrule Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s order reserving beds in Delhi government-run and private hospitals only for the people of Delhi needs to be commended. Sunday’s order by the CM was clearly exclusionist, discriminatory and even perhaps legally untenable. Had the order been implemented, it would have largely had two effects: One, it would have denied healthcare to scores of patients from other states who come to Delhi for specialised treatment that is unavailable to them in their hometowns.
Many lesser developed states lack good hospitals, forcing people to travel thousands of kilometres for treatment. Second, it would have led to denial of medical care to even those living and working in Delhi as they don’t have pehchaan patras, or identity proofs, of residency in Delhi. The burden of providing proof would have fallen on the patients, which would be verified by low-level hospital employees, leaving scope for discrimination and harassment. It should also be remembered that among the many reasons why lakhs of migrant workers clamoured to go home following the lockdown was that they could not get access to subsidised food and ration as they were not covered under the PDS in their place of employment. This prompted the government to fast-track the ‘one nation, one ration card’ project that had been hanging fire. Migration, mobility and transferable jobs are a reality that cannot be brushed aside. This means there will be many “outsiders” in cities and towns that are employment magnets.
For a change, Kejriwal does not seem to have taken the L-G’s order as an affront. The CM reacted saying his government would face a huge challenge but it would be met head on. In the past, Kejriwal has often been at loggerheads with the L-G even over minor issues. But his mature reaction this time is good for the people of Delhi and for a healthy working relationship between the two constitutional heads. The last thing that is needed during this major health and economic crisis is a cold war between the duo. It would have paralysed governance and administration at a crucial time.