CANCELLING HOSPITAL LICENCES IS NOT THE ANSWER, that as per the DNHA, it is not the state government, but the Medical Council of India (MCI), which is empowered to cancel the license and punish doctors for negligence and malpractice. The government has instructed the state governments to adopt and implement the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act 2010. Although it is heartening to note that politicians are finally coming forward to help patients challenge the exaggerated bills made by hospital authorities, it cannot be denied that closing down a hospital is not an appropriate form of punishment. It is understandable that private hospitals cannot deliver health care at the same costings that one finds in the government hospitals. In order to avoid the painful queues, obsolete instruments, and lack of other facilities, many patients have little option but to visit the private hospitals to get some reasonable standard of treatment by making highly inflated payments. It is because of lack of transparency that cesarean childbirth is so common in India, as doctors are reluctant to wait for a normal delivery, in order to push up a huge bill. There have been several instances where doctors unnecessarily advised hysterectomy and even angioplasties, in order to mint fast money. In the report by the Competition Commission of India, the private healthcare sector indulges in malpractices and overcharge consumables, medical equipment etc so that hospitals can make profits. Cases of a medical representative from internationally renowned medical companies luring doctors with expensive gifts, cars and foreign holidays in exchange for prescribing drugs from that particular company, is also common in India. This encourages many doctors to prescribe expensive drugs and injections from companies that offer them incentives. As a result of this alleged nexus between the medical practitioners, drug store owners and the drug manufacturing companies, common people pay exorbitant prices to buy medicines. Visiting the private clinic of reputed doctors usually turn out to be nothing less than a nightmare for the pocket. While Max hospital has appealed against the cancellation of licence, the Indian Medical Associations (IMA) has been widely condemning the government’s decision. Dr KK Aggarwal, an eminent cardiologist and president of IMA has been asking the medical fraternity for self-regulation procedures. Realising the depletion in doctor-patient trust, the IMA has demanded the state government to come out with an urgent ordinance for ‘one drug-one company -one price policy’. The Association has also been persuading doctors to ensure that hospitals should not sell any item at a price higher than the Market Rate Price (MRP). Dr Aggarwal has also been highlighting the problems faced by the doctors as on several occasions irrational and unrealistic expectations by the patients and their relatives,  lead to a vicious environment during treatment. “Once a treatment is administered, the recuperation of a patient depends upon physical and organic factors,” he said. This is referring to innumerable harrowing incidents in hospitals when the family of the patient have assaulted doctors, threatening them to give ‘proper’ treatment even when there is no such thing as a miracle treatment. The time has come for the government to not just increase the number of private and government hospitals, but also provide standardised health services. The private health sector definitely needs a mandate under which a cap is put on their service costs. A demand has been made to appoint an ombudsman in private hospitals and to address and look after patients’ issues. In most of the hospitals in the UK and the US, a  neutral person also known as a patient representative, is appointed, who investigates and mediates patients’ problem and complaints in relation to a hospital’s services. We also need a nearly foolproof system to keep a watch on the medical fraternity and fight for millions of middle-class patients. // ]]>


India Today lifted the veil off the non-profit organisation Popular Front of India (PFI)- an Islamic fundamentalist organisation, securing astonishing confessions of its top functionaries involved in the mass conversion. Christened as Operation Conversion Mafia, the report claimed that the PFI which is already under NIA investigation, was responsible for brainwashing Hindu women and marrying them off to Muslim men. Hadiya’s father has claimed that the organisation was responsible for converting his daughter, while the BJP leaders are now demanding a ban on PFI. In most parts of the world, marriage is perceived as a personal decision between two people, however, for some centuries, couples in India have not enjoyed the liberty to love and find their own partners. Interfaith marriages have generally been challenging in some sectors of society,  but it was never made out to be a political issue as it is done now. In the 40s, the country saw one of the most celebrated interfaith weddings of Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira Priyadarshini with Feroze Jehangir Ghandy (later re-spelt as Gandhi), who was a Parsi. Similarly, Vice President of India Mohd Hidayatullah married Pushpa Shah, of Jain faith. Actress Sharmila Tagore married cricketer Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, but they refused to answer any questions related to their religion or whether there was any conversion. These high profiles marriages were widely discussed but were not seen as ‘Love Jihad’ because the political leaders of the time did not use it as a hate campaign to divide society. In the last few years, Love Jihad has emerged as an aggressive and emotive campaign by some Hindu groups, accusing and targeting Muslim youth of luring non-Muslim women and forcing them to convert. These Hindu groups are indulging in strategic, orchestrated propaganda highlighting the ‘abduction’ of Hindu women by Muslim goondas. With religious polarisation increasing in the country, interfaith marriage is yet another bone of contention which may flare up disharmony even more. It is women who are again the ‘item’ of political tension without their consent or taking their voices into account. One wonders if Indian women will ever acquire the freedom to make personal choices and if it is right to dream of a utopian society where religion will be an absolute non-issue when two people decide to enter the sacred institution of marriage. // ]]>


‘Athithi Devo Bhav’ (Guest is equivalent to God) according to Hindu tradition, but is India treating tourists according to this long-held custom? Recent shocking events of attacks on tourists expose a different side of us Indians and the failure of the state to promote this ancient practice.


India is one of the most desired places to visit for most foreigners, but, three in four express their apprehension to plan a trip to a country famous for its diversity, as per the Indian tourist planners. Their apprehension and fear are not unfounded, going by the number of recent attacks on the visitors.  

These unpleasant incidents are the reason that a good number of western tourists form an opinion about India, and think twice before planning a trip to India.  Instead, travellers readily pack their bags and hop off to travel to Europe, North pole, America, Canada, Switzerland, South Asian countries and even to the luxurious Middle-Eastern countries such as Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. They are hesitant to make a foray into the Asian countries, more particularly to India because of the risks and discomforts it holds.


Most travel buffs say that the overpopulated and mystically diverse India is one of their dream destinations. But lack of facilities and security prevents them from embarking on the journey. It cannot be dismissed merely to negative propaganda. If foreign travellers have their reservations about lack of facilities, luxury, hygiene and security–they are right to a large extent.


Isn’t it shocking? Since time immemorial, India has taken pride in the dictum ‘Athithi Devo Bhav’ (Guest is equivalent to God), and the Hindu scriptures suggested the host offers best of hospitality. This involved five steps of worshipping the guests. The tagline was used by the government to boost tourism in 2003. The rhetoric was not followed by a thorough preparation and support for ‘worshipping the guests’.


Going by the recent horrifying case of an attack on a young Swedish couple by the locals at Fatehpur Sikri, it appears that we Indians have little intention to make India a tourist-friendly state. The only fault of this couple who was beaten black and blue left with a fractured skull and arm was that they turned down the request for a selfie made by the errant locals. In another incident, a German backpacker was beaten at the airport for allegedly not responding to the greetings. A Scottish couple was beaten in Bihar after they caught the locals stealing their belongings. The list seems to be endless as each traveller has his or her own woeful anecdote related to India visit.  


According to World Trade and Travel Council (WTTC), India ranks seventh in the world in terms of overall GDP contribution. According to the new data, Travel & Tourism in India generated Rs 14.1 trillion ($208.9 billion) in 2016, which is the world’s 7th largest in terms of absolute size, the sum is equivalent to 9.6% of India’s GDP.


Moreover, the sector supported 40.3 million jobs in 2016 in India, which ranks India 2nd in the world in terms of total employment supported by Travel & Tourism. The sector accounts for 9.3% of the country’s total jobs. India’s Travel & Tourism sector was also the fastest growing among the G20 countries, growing by 8.5% in 2016. A further 6.7% growth is forecast for 2017. Tourism in India is third largest foreign exchange earners and its growth is expected to reach $147.96 billion by 2027.


This data reveals that tourism and tourists matter a lot to India. However, it is disappointing to note that despite being an important source of income and employment, the country seems to take little responsibility towards the visitors.


The incidence of violence, irregularities, molestation and rape of foreign tourists dismally show that India is not sending a positive signal of welcome to those who are looking forward to planning a trip.


According to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, out of the 365 cases of crimes against foreigners, 271 cases (or 74.2 percent), were registered under crimes against foreign tourists. Out of the 365 cases of crime against foreigners, 223 cases related to theft. This was followed by an assault on foreign women with intent to outrage her modesty (23 cases), forgery (15 cases), rape (12 cases), robbery (10 cases) and cheating (9 cases) during 2015.  


To give a fillip to tourism in India, the government launched the Incredible India- a scheme to elevate India’s global appeal for tourism and trade, in 2002. The promotional campaign featuring Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador tried its level best to put India on the global tourism map, and to a large extent succeeded too.


But campaign alone cannot give them security and pleasant experience. It does not make much difference if people do not develop a welcoming attitude towards the visitors.


Most travellers complain of the clingy attitude of we Indians, others get annoyed when people, including taxi drivers, shopkeepers, hotel managers and waiters unnecessarily get too intrusive, and some get irked at the fact that they receive too many requests to get a selfie clicked. Not to forget, getting mobbed by beggars at the crossings, and hounded by waiters for lucrative tips to lack of basic facilities as clean toilets in public places – the list is endless and foreign travellers surely have a story to tell.


All in all, we have ourselves to blame. Most of us who have travelled abroad would agree that tourism is a serious business for the government and its people. One can rarely fear getting duped or cheated at famous tourist spots, and if in crisis, the local police are ready to help.


Bustling tourists destination such as Thailand, Switzerland, Japan, Nepal, Greece, Sri Lanka and more have designated tourism police, for the safety of the tourists. There are 24 hour tourist hotlines which are actually effective.


The government-run Indian Institute Of Travel and Tourism Management (IITTM) had recommended the formation of a special force, donning uniforms with Incredible India logo, to guard the tourists. The idea was to have the vigil in prominent tourists places and also at the airports, railway stations and bus stands to ensure the safety of tourists. But where is it?


Ironically, barring Kerala and Goa, no other states till now have tourist police to safeguard foreign visitors. Most travellers come prepared to deal with hardship in India, after reading all the guidelines mentioned in the fat rulebook given to them before they step on our land, hoping to check out Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Gateway Of India, magnificent temples in the Tamil Nadu or the backwaters of Kerala. The list of Dos and Donts is way too many and that is unfortunate, to say the least.


External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been trying her level best to ensure an amicable environment for the visitors. It is time for the country after taking a cue from countries topping the list of best tourists-friendly nations to introduce systems to make tourists feel at home. We need to put real effort behind ‘Athithi Devo Bhav’ (Guest is equivalent to God) and not just leave this statement to another glory of the past.

// ]]>