Mrunal Manmay Dash

“Corruption is a disease and it is paid mostly by the poor,” Pope Francis had once said while addressing the Vatican. These words have time and again proven right. As if corruption allegations in departments like education, revenue and transport were not enough, the health care system in Odisha too has fallen victim to the disease called corruption. And the poor and the middle class are the ones who are paying for it.

Chandbali Community Health Centre (CHC) in Bhadrak has allegedly come out as an example of a corrupt healthcare system in the State. As per reports, the entire hospital is running under the mercy of middlemen. No clerical work can be done in the hospital without paying the bribe. People even have to allegedly pay Rs 2000 to obtain the birth or death certificate of their dear ones.

It is pertinent to mention here that no less than 36 panchayats of Chandbali block and some villages of the neighbouring Kendrapara district depend on this health centre for healthcare services.

It has been alleged that the medical authorities receive money for birth and death certificates through middlemen. A complaint has already been filed at the Chandbali police station in this regard. But no action has been taken by the police till now stoking resentment by the locals who are forced to pay the bribe at the hospital.

“People pay bribes for death certificates so that they can avail money from the government under Harischandra scheme. People also need death certificates for the transfer and mutation of land. The medical officer at the hospital receives all those bribes through middlemen,” alleged a local Saroj Sahu.

“When I applied for the certificate, they delayed the process inordinately forcing me to pay the bribe. The equation is very clear here. Pay Rs 2000 for an immediate disbursal of birth or death certificate, and if you apply only through a Rs 7 treasury challan, which is the actual way of applying, you will have to wait for at least three months. We want this corruption to end,” said another complainant Asish Behera.

The situation is so dire that people who do not have Rs 2000 to pay as bribes reportedly have to return empty-handed from the hospital.

Asked about the allegations, while the hospital authorities admitted to middlemen and brokers infesting the hospital, they also denied any irregularity in certificate disbursal.

“I do not have any evidence of medical staff taking bribes here. As far as the documents are concerned, I have checked it. All the certificates are being issued in a timely manner,” said the Nodal Officer of Chandbali Hospital, Ashok Mishra.

“I had called the middlemen to speak with them, but they were not available. I will call them again and ask them about the allegations,” Mishra added.

Bhadrak Collector, Siddeshwar Baliram Bondar said, “We have received a complaint about the same. The CDMO has been asked to make an enquiry into the allegations. We will take appropriate action based on the inquiry report.”