Monday, February 12, 2018

Letter to Supriya Sule on the Breast Cancer (Awareness and Free Treatment) Bill, 2017

I read with much interest, The Breast Cancer (Awareness and Free Treatment) Bill, 2017, that you introduced in the Winter Session. While your able assistants may have provided you with perfect statistics on the disease, the Bill has many lacunae. I am therefore writing to point them out to you.
Firstly, I am with you on the awareness aspect of the Bill, not the free treatment. That’s because making this treatment free, will only make it frivolous among the medical fraternity, especially at government hospitals. These patients will not be looked at seriously, because “Woh toh free patient hai”.
Secondly, while cancer is a major threat to thousands of Indians, it is not fair to tax the government solely for one form of it.
More importantly, there already are many schemes, both by the government and non-governmental organisations, to help cancer patients financially. These include the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana (Maharashtra); two schemes by the Union Ministry of Family Health and Welfare for poor patients (for those below the poverty line), and every chief minister’s fund. Many hospitals provide free treatment to cancer patients.
The need of the hour is to ensure that these existing schemes reach the poor. For many, the word cancer is enough to lose hope. Poor people, many who are also uneducated, need to be told about these existing schemes. They need to be counselled regarding finances and treatment. Teams of counsellors need to be created for this. You should look at this instead of seeking provision for free treatment.

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