It was not amusing to see a contingent of policemen cleaning the G B Panth children’s hospital the other day in the cantonment area of Srinagar. The hospital is the only tertiary healthcare facility for children of the entire valley of Kashmir.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that it was a cheap public relations exercise conceived on the abject failure of the governing system that oversaw the deaths of hundreds of newborns and toddlers because of its callous attitude. Something that has been happening since the hospital was shifted from the heart of Srinagar to the neighbourhood of the largest army installation in the valley in the summer capital of the state.
What did the police department think when it decided that the uniformed men, meant for a totally different function, could be sent for a cleaning exercise of this sort? Does the police department have surplus staff, or it believes that it the business of the police force to enter whatever area of governance they want to? In the least it points to a systemic failure and an unhealthy understanding of the roles various wings or departments of the governing system have.
We have seen the police and other government forces enter many other areas of governmental functions they should normally have nothing to do with. Be it development initiatives, sports, drug de-addiction, women’s and youth empowerment or snow clearing and restoration of electricity during bad weather, the police force has been doing it all.
In a place which is fast reaching an unacceptably high people-police ratio, shouldn’t the government be thinking of augmenting personnel in all other sectors of public service rather than continue employing further in the exceptionally large police force? It would be interesting to find out if the health department actually permitted the police to enter a children’s hospital that scared away patents recently, or the officials in the police department decided to undertake a crude public relations exercise on their own. What would happen if any other department, like the health department unilaterally decided to screen personnel of the police department for whatever parameters? It is sure never possible to happen. Should the government or the chief minister, or even less, the health minister not have objected to sending a police force inside a children’s hospital for as basic an exercise as cleaning its pipes and corridors?
An exercise in keeping the hygiene does not require a huge work force. When these kinds of actions go unchecked and unprotested against within a governing system, it is time to take stock of the exercise of authority. Otherwise there is no end to interference of security agencies in any area of civilian governance. And, that would be the surest and the fastest way to anarchy within the government. In such circumstances it would be legitimate to expect a good doctor to efficiently regulate traffic or keep peace on the streets, and for an efficient policeman to administer anesthesia.