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The fire of corruption, the smoke of apathy

Kinfra fire

Ranjith, an energetic firefighter, had to sacrifice his life in a fire at the medicine storage centre of Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL) operating in Kinfra, Thiruvananthapuram. No amount of compensation can replace that priceless life or can erase the agony and heartache of the bereaved family. But Ranjith's family should get justice for the tragic death that happened in the course of duty. As a mark of consideration and care, the government should provide them with adequate compensation. Madhyamam joins in the deep grief of Ranjith's family. Within the span of a week, two warehouses under the Medical Corporation in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram caught fire. While medicines and chemicals worth more than Rs 1 crore were destroyed in Thiruvananthapuram, medical supplies worth more than Rs 10 crore got burned in Kollam. It is the responsibility of the government to give a credible answer to the question of why such incidents are happening in succession and to take strict action against the culprits.

Also read: Fireman dies in Kerala as building catches fire, collapses

Kerala Opposition leader VD Satheesan has come out alleging mystery in these fires. He charges that the incidents were efforts to destroy the evidence of the corruption to the tune of Rs 1,000 crores in the health department during and after the Covid. The activities of the Medical Services Corporation, which was formed to purchase medicines and medical equipment for government hospitals and medical colleges, are already under the shadow of allegations. Stories of corruption constantly keep coming from there. Based on the complaint of the Director of of Health Services, a police investigation was conducted on the serious matter of deleting the digital files to hide the fraud in purchases. After that, hundreds of files disappeared from the health department headquarters. As a result, Corporation General Manager Dr. Dilip Kumar and others were transferred, but the corruption continues unabated. A clear sign of that is in the last two and a half years, nine managing directors had to quit their posts.

In the complaint that during the Covid period, protective materials and medicines were procured without following the rules and at three times the market price, the 13 accused included former Health Minister K.K. Shailaja. These incidents happened in the pendency of the case which is due for hearing before the Lokayukta on June 15. This background is also the reason why everyone considers unbelievable the official explanation that the fire was caused by bleaching powder. Information emerging is that there is corruption involved in the purchase of bleaching powder which caused the fire. The powder was procured in excessive quantities after being included in the essential medicine procurement list, and so without inviting tenders. And statements that expired medicines were also burnt in the fire also lead to a question: how did expired medicines reach the warehouse? This evidence lends credence to the allegation that KMSCL is itself rendering them unusable by buying such drugs. The government should be prepared for a thorough and independent investigation in view of this perception that these incidents of fire were aimed at destroying evidence or covering up corruption.

Allegations of corruption in the health sector are often destined to end up in smoke. The health care system is a heap of carelessness exploiting vulnerabilities even in the necessity of saving lives. The stipulation that medicines and chemicals should be stock in separate locations is not complied with anywhere. There is also no attention paid to the standards required for buildings where medicines and chemicals are stored It is none other than Chief of Fire Force B Sandhya who vouches that these buildings have no fire fighting system in place to sound an alarm or extinguish fire in emergencies. Therefore one thing can be said without any doubt: the young man named Ranjith is the martyr of such corruption and negligence. At least for the salvation of his soul, necessary actions should be taken against those who were negligent in not following any safety precautions in medical warehouses. And it will be only a justice to him that the mysteries surrounding this incident are uncovered and truth revealed.

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TAGS:Kinfra fireRanjith firefighterKinfra fire deathKerala Medical Services CorporationKollam warehouse
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