Justice Katju visits Mohalla clinics, returns satisfied with Delhi government’s ‘good endeavour’


Justice Markandey Katju

I had heard about the Mohalla Clinics set up by the Aam Aadmi Party, but I had never personally visited any of them. So I decided today to make a surprise visit.

I visited two Mohalla Clinics, one behind Masjid Nooh, Zakir Nagar and the other at Jogabai Extension, Okhla.

They were in congested areas, and I had to go through narrow lanes to reach them. It was obvious that a lot of poor people live in the area.
The first clinic I visited was near the Masjid Nooh, Zakir Nagar. The Doctor there was Dr. Mirza Azam Beg and he recognized me, and was very cordial. He told me the following facts about the clinic:

1.The clinic works only from 9 am-1 pm and between 50-80 patients come there every day.

2. About 80-85 type of medicines are available to the patients free of cost, including medicines for diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, fever etc. and the medical examination is also free.
3. About 200 kinds of tests can be done there.
4. The Doctor is empanelled and is on contract, given rupees 30 per patient by the Delhi government.
5. One pathologist and ANM are also posted in the clinic. Vaccination etc. are also done there.
6.There is no X-ray machine, but it is available in the nearby Batla Nagar dispensary.

7. Dr. Mirza told me that he could earn twice as much in private practice during this time, but he was prepared to work for even rupees 20 per patient as it gives him great inner satisfaction of being of help to poor people. He also said that if the local patients had to go the Safdarjang hospital or some other big hospital, they will have to spend over 100 rupees for auto fare alone, and will have to spend more money to buy medicines from the market, but here everything is free.

With Dr. Brijendra Singh at the Mohalla Clinic at Jogabai Extension, Okhla.
With Dr. Brijendra Singh at the Mohalla Clinic at Jogabai Extension, Okhla.

8. The clinic runs in a rented accommodation, and an AAP MLA donated some furniture for the clinic.
9. I spoke to some of the patients there and they were satisfied with the medical care provided.

Thereafter. I walked from this clinic to the second clinic which is near Pehalwan Chowk. On the way while I was walking a gentleman named Haji Mohammed Ali met me and recognized me. He was kind enough to walk all the way to the second clinic with me. He told me that the local AAP MLA, a young man named Amanatullah Khan was doing good work in the locality.

When I reached the second clinic, I entered and met Dr. Brijendra Singh, a Sikh doctor. He was also very cordial to me and I told him that I had come on a surprise inspection to see how Mohalla Clinics are actually working.

He told me that almost all the children he examined there had vitamin deficiency and many women had iron deficiency. Vitamins were available free of cost in the Mohalla clinics.

He was also very satisfied with the work he was doing, particularly for the poor people. He said that people from neighbouring states are coming to visit and see the functioning of Mohalla Clinics.

However, he said that already 60-80 patients were coming to his clinic everyday. Since the clinic works from 9 am to 1 pm, if there are 60 patients that means just 4 minutes is being given to each patient.

The number of patients is rapidly increasing, and so it will not be possible to do justice to a patient withing the time available. Hence he suggested that the clinic should also be open for at least 4 hours in the evening, in which another empaneled doctor could sit. I think this is a good suggestion and the Secretary Health, Delhi Government should do the needful in this connection.

He also said that there was some medicines which were not in the government list and are not allowed to be prescribed for purchase in the open market. I said that perhaps the reason for this restriction was that there were complaints that some doctors had been in collusion with some pharmaceutical companies and prescribed only their medicine. Hence in my opinion the government list should be expanded in consultation with the doctors and more medicines, which were cheap, should be added to the list.

I was also told by a gentleman that the Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain personally visits hospitals to see the condition there, and enquires from the patient whether they are getting proper medical treatment.

I got a good impression of these Mohalla clinics. No doubt they are not full-fledged hospitals, but I was told that 80 per cent of medical ailments can be treated there and free medicines given. Till now medical care was almost non existent for the poor people in India, but these mohalla clinics can set a good precedent.

In my opinion this is a good endeavour, and should be emulated by other state governments in India. In fact, I was told that this is a unique project in the world and many countries have desired to study it. The American newspaper, Washington Post has also appreciated it.

Both the doctors said that the Secretary, Health Delhi government was a dynamic person and was carefully supervising the work of the Mohalla clinics.

Justice Katju is a former Supreme Court Judge and ex Chairman of Press Council of India. Views expressed here are the author’s own and jantakareporter.com doesn’t subscribe to them.