CAG report demolishes claim of Chouhan government, exposes major lapses in healthcare, Vyapam

The report has ignited a political storm in Madhya Pradesh where the Vyapam scam is still a raw wound for the government and a soft target for the opposition.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan
Image: Indian Express

On the last day of the budget session of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on March 24, Comptroller and Auditor General of India demolished the claim of the BJP ruled state government that Madhya Pradesh has ceased to be a "Bimaru Rajya".
The report which was tabled in the house pulled up the state government on two major counts. The two issues relate to health care, particularly in rural areas and various factors pertaining to the Vyapam scam. 
In a major embarrassment to the Madhya Pradesh government, CAG has punched holes in the implementation of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). 
A newspaper reporting CAG's comment about health care said that it has caused a major embarrassment to the state government. Normally CAG reports are only tabled in the Vidhan Sabha but this time CAG report was released at a press conference. 
The report found state government's claim about health care in rural areas hollow and baseless.
The central audit revealed financial irregularities and misappropriation of central funds for the project. The Centre gave Rs 5,269.70 crore to the state in the last fiscal year to revamp rural healthcare but the state failed on a host of key parameters.
Infant mortality rate (IMR) in the state was 51 per 1,000, live births and maternal mortality rate (MMR) stood at a shocking 221 per 1,00,000, way higher than the national average (40 and 167 respectively). The report said the shortfall in providing maternal, child and reproductive healthcare services resulted in the failure in achieving targets.
Out of 93.72 lakh pregnant women registered for ante-natal care during 2011-16, only 52.51 lakh (56 per cent) were registered within first trimester of pregnancies and 19.44 lakh (21 per cent) pregnant women did not undergo three check-ups. As a result, well-being and the progress of fetal growth could not be ascertained in such cases.
HIV testing of 47.27 lakh and VDRL testing of 60.34 lakh pregnant women were not conducted.
As many as 28 per cent women were discharged within 48 hours of delivery in public institutions, says the report, and only 35.21 lakh (55 per cent) mothers received post-partum check-up between 48 hours and 14 days after delivery due to the "apathetic attitude of service providers", it adds.
Against 93.72 lakh registered pregnancies during 2011-16, there were only 69.83 lakh deliveries. The case of missing deliveries may have an impact on the skewed sex ratio of 52:48 at birth in the state.
There was shortfall of 16-21 per cent in targets set for child immunisation against seven vaccine-preventable diseases due to lack of awareness among parents and failure to mobilise women/ children by the administration, the report points out. Out of 69.25 lakh live births, only 39.30 lakh (57 per cent) infants were provided hepatitis B vaccine due to lack of storage facilities.
The State did not achieve the targeted total fertility rate (TFR) due to under-performance in family planning programme, says CAG. Against 3.03 lakh male sterilisations planned during 2011-16, only 0.83 lakh (27 per cent) were performed. Female sterilization was a shade better at 43 per cent and 22 per cent of target (minilap and post-partum). There was a 42 per cent shortfall in distribution of contraceptive pills and 49 per cent in condoms.
The CAG has also severely criticised the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government on a string of "irregularities" concerning Vyapam — from the government's alleged "dual stand" and how central auditors were stopped from accessing its records to "arbitrary appointments" and alleged lack of financial accountability. 
The report has ignited a political storm in Madhya Pradesh where the Vyapam scam is still a raw wound for the government and a soft target for the opposition.
"While the MP government disowned and distanced itself from Vyapam, on the other hand it was in full control of the examination board for all practical purposes… The shadowy control (on Vyapam) has led to a situation where there was severe erosion in the credibility of exams conducted by board," CAG observed in its latest report for 2015-16.
In a scathing remark, the report points out that the state government" did not take any remedial measures" by framing rules/regulations to prevent irregularities even after the Vyapam scam.
While the government seemed numbed by the report — no one was willing to give a comment — Congress seized the opportunity. Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh said, "This is a very damning report. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan BJP government now stands fully exposed."
The CAG has recommended that the state government investigate cases of irregularities in appointment of officers to the board and hike in pay of officers. It also suggests Vyapam be brought to the level of a public service commission/staff selection commission.
The appointments of director and controller were made by "systemic subversion of rules", resulting in undue favour to certain individuals, it says. Dr Yogesh Uprit and Dr Pankaj Trivedi were appointed to these posts directly on orders of the then minister "in contravention of the rules".
The delay in establishment of statutory Board, "defeated the purpose of providing greater authority and credibility" to the Professional Examination Board in Madhya Pradesh. The state legislature passed the Vyapam Act in August 2007 but the government established the statutory board under this Act only in March 2016 — after a delay of more than eight years.
Recruitment examinations for state-level posts were transferred to Vyapam in April 2003 in an "unprecedented manner", the CAG report says. There was no augmentation of manpower/established system to handle the new function. This hampered conduct of examination by the board.
Conduct of recruitment examination — a primary function of the government to ensure free and fair recruitment to its own services, which was till now being conducted by PSC/government departments — was "jettisoned in favour of an institution that was neither statutory nor independent, nor functioned under well laid out regulations", it points out. This went against well established judicial and constitutional pronouncements, it says.
The state government did not take any remedial measures by framing rules/regulations to prevent irregularities even after Vyapam reported some cases of irregularities in conduct of examination.
There was no evidence that the government ensured the integrity of IT-based system used in the examination conducted by the board. Early on, the government decided that the audit would not be entrusted to CAG as it was presumed that the 'AG was very busy'. AG was not consulted in the matter.
The fund of the board was kept outside government account and it was not subjected to budgetary control of the legislature. The board, however, had no hesitation in transferring Rs 13.75 crore fund to other organisations for activities not connected with Vyapam. (IPA Service)



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