By Uma Sudhir
You can count yourself lucky if you did not have to make a visit to the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad on Thursday afternoon. Chances are that, even if you were a patient’s attendant, you would have been rudely barred from coming anywhere the hospital.
Why, you may wonder.
That’s because, to display that his heart beats for the right kind of people, the first place Kiran Kumar Reddy chose to visit immediately after being sworn in as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, was NIMS. The idea was to visit patients who had benefitted from the Congress government’s Arogyasree scheme.
The noble intention was to send across the message that for him, medical insurance for the poor was top priority. The political message was that he was here to fulfill what Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had started, that he would continue his schemes and take them forward. The indirect message was that he could very well be the man to inherit and carry forward YSR’s legacy. Political analysts could see in it the first of the steps to neutralise Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.
NIMS was transformed into NIMS [Live] within minutes of information that the CM was to check out the premier government hospital. A dozen OB vans barged into the NIMS gate, virtually blocking the movement of vehicles and patients. The road outside was a traffic nightmare, with all those who couldn’t manage to meet and greet the new CM elsewhere, making a beeline for the hospital.
The gates were closed. Of course, only for the patients and public. Inside, about 50 mediapersons, camerapersons, photographers took positions near the main entrance to the building. Read positions as anything from being on the verandah, to the window sill, to the balconies, to the walls, to perching just about anywhere that could give a vantage position.
At least 20-40 doctors and several more staff, in decreasing order of seniority from the front backwards, stood at the entrance to welcome the VVIP, with good-natured curiosity and of course, protocol. Dominating the scene were another kind of men in white too. The netas. Those from the Congress stable, distinct by their starched white attire, orange-green scarfs, and demeanor, and many more in number owing allegiance to political colours across the spectrum, occupied centrestage. The ropes and barricades brought out by the police was of course not for them. I don’t think any man in uniform even dared to ask them to step aside, clear the way. You never know who may be minister tomorrow.
“The way they tie our movement with ropes and let those politicians around loose is really humiliating. A few years ago, if they didn’t treat us with respect and dignity, we would simply boycott the event en masse. Now with so many news channels and sickening competition, the worst behaviour is condoned in the name of scoring a point over rivals,” commented a senior photographer.
“It is not as though our fraternity behaves in such a way as to earn respect. Look at that,” another added, pointing to one cameraman trying to climb atop an ambulance parked in front.
The chief minister’s convoy arrived. The madness is beyond my ability to describe in words. It was almost as though the securitymen, politicos, cameramen, photographers were caught in a frenzy, a rush to reach the most important man of the day, to shake a hand, offer a greeting, and if possible, hand over whatever was left of the expensive bouquet that was brought along.
As the CM made his way inside, I saw at least three camerapersons jump inside the ward full of patients through an open window. One jumped on to a stool to get a good view. Another tried to get on to a bed occupied by a patient, even as the nurse screamed that there are heart patients, and one fall on someone could prove fatal.
Only later I learnt that the ward on the ground floor was specially `prepared’ and some arogyasree patients were shifted from the third floor for the visit. Some `extras’ (meaning those who couldn’t fit in, in the neat, new cosmetic arrangement, made specially for the visit) were asked to wait outside till such time that the CM leaves. The place had to look dressed up for the occasion, right? So the photo-op can look appropriate for the occasion.
Surely, there must be a better way of showing concern than symbolic, token-gestures that take away and ruin the spirit of the initiative.