Thursday, September 08, 2011

Watching Big Brother

Time has come, to do something about this.

In city after metro city, folks go off to work, watched by their family members. And it has reached a point where no one breathes easy till the person returns home.

Somewhere, sometime, suddenly, there is a blast,  and you keep dialing numbers, and panic when no one picks up.For some unfortunate families, it means finding out that their loved one is injured and in hospital. And families and friends rush there , to help in whatever way they can. It is often not clear who is where, in which hospital, but there are huge boards put up with lists (has happened in Mumbai) , and some helpful souls also help put these online, so people can get information.

While one has nothing to say about the investigation part of these calamities, there is one uniquely Indian habit,  or should I say Indian politician habit, that we need to do something about.

Some ministers, opposition leaders, not to mention even those who hold no position in the cabinet or anything, all make a beeline for the hospitals. Spiffy white clothes, suitable expressions, surrounded by  "officials" and security, they make the rounds of wards, ensuring that TV cameras capture them as they pat the shoulder of a chap who has 3 tubes attached to his face and a bandage around his chest.  The chap's desperately worried family has been asked to step out, way outside the hospital premises  and wait. And never mind if they still do not know the prognosis, never mind if it is a child asking for a parent.  The doctors who could have attended to the huge amount of patients waiting in the Out Patients Department, walk sedately with the VIP visitors.

For what ?  Do these politicians even know anything about medicine and/or anatomy? Can they contribute anything anywhere ?  Do they ask about specific injuries and possible healing ?  Can a hand that tightly fists up when a new machine needs to be approved for a hospital,  actually empathize with the man in trauma, waiting for all of it to get over ?  The higher the post of the visitor, the more complicated the visit.

Suddenly all resources are diverted towards the visitor. Roads are blocked, traffic is halted, and that probably includes, patients in ambulances. Todays television news showed people who waited for 2 hours outside a hospital ,barred from coming in even to enquire, completely ignorant about their patient's condition, all because some minister with his posse of security was visiting.  Relatives of the seriously injured are fobbed off and asked to stay out.  Then the politicians go back and announce compensations.  There too, with an eye on votes.

I have a suggestion. Which will allow doctors and hospital to get on with their jobs.

We are now so technologically abled, that people give job interviews on Skype, use I-phones, and web cams to see family events in real time across continents. So many functions which earlier involved standing in queues, fighting with rule breakers, and  shuffling  from toe to toe while the service window is closed for lunch, are now done online by us.

Give all these ministers and MP's (including the PM), huge screens in their offices. Have some kind of cameras, massive web cam type things set up in all public hospital wards and the VIP offices. The ministers etc can talk to everyone in the hospital , ward by ward, the superintendent , doctors and so on.  Sick people in wards, who are able,  can ask the minister things and hopefully get a meaningful answer.  The camera in the ward can always zoom in on someone who the minister wants to know more about.  All you need is  one dedicated fellow who can walk around and zoom with the  camera. Television companies who advertise screen-in-screen facilities can be asked to offer expertise.  And there can be set times during the day when these VIP interactions take place. 

All these worthies in new Delhi and elsewhere, who wish to do this, can schedule their hospital interaction sessions amongst themselves.  So you can have the home minister checking with folks in the orthopaedic ward, while the PM  talks to the injured children in their ward, or the ladies ward.  Several minister types can simultaneously e-visit.  In the meanwhile patient admissions can continue unhindered  in the OPD.  You will not need posses of policemen trailing and going around with the dignitaries, dragging all the outside dirt into the wards;  worried sisters, brothers, parents can comfort those in trauma, and those hurt badly, at their bedside.

This system can even be used  where the destination is changeable.  Like  the PM , and any assorted minister type, need not waste aviation fuel and fly down to visit patients , like, after, say,  the Mumbai Monsoon deluge, or floods elsewhere. Today's news mentions the Comptroller and Auditor General of India remarking adversely about  VIP flights not being reimbursed to the exchequer.

All this will involve creation of some IT type jobs  in places like hospitals, and some hardware experts. With the increasing digitisation of scans, and tests, we already have a huge bank of qualified people, suited to a hospital environment. We have so much expertise in this, we even have a ministry for information technology.

Just think. No  sirens and cars cruising in with red beacons. No blocking of traffic,  No sudden flurry of changing dirty bedsheets in wards. No sudden issuing of blankets, hitherto declared unavailable. No shoving of family members to stand outside the hospital braving the sun and rain, till the so called VIP leaves. No automatic functional shutdowns in hospitals for the duration of the visit.

Some side benefits would be that during peaceful ordinary times too, the big worthies could check up on what is going on.

They will then see what we all see, and not just what is shown to them.

 I wonder why such a thing is not being thought of.  We have had it up to there with CCTV cameras that don't work, or films that are corrupted.  Blast after blast,  one has seen these VIP visits, which are a complete waste of time, money and knowledge.      

Of course , one anticipates huge objections to this, from the anti-big-brother-is-watching-you  type folks .   Privacy issues.  Rights issues.

But it is now time for Big Brother himself to be watched, by the public, that pays taxes, believes in him,gives him an occasional benefit of doubt, and sometimes, even votes for him.

Keep all ministers out of the equipment ordering and installing  process. Tihar Jail is anyway full.  Have this system proliferate across the country. And name someone like Mr Narayan Murthy to head the thing.

Just a suggestion , from someone, almost as old as the country, and not liking the direction in which things are going.


  1. Sure it is the need of the hour .. the big brother has to be watched..


  2. You wonder why such a thing is not being thought of; most likely because these damned fools aren't thinking of anything or anyone but themselves and their profile, their image, their egos. Who cares for solutions? They don't have a problem!

  3. They would have jumped on your suggestions if they genuinely cared for the country and it's people. E-watching? How on earth will they make headlines if they stayed at work and e-visited? Surely PR is far more important than secondary things like doctors being allowed to do their jobs, or worrying about how their visit might impact the patients. As far as they appear on TV, pretending to be deeply disturbed, nothing else matters :( And more is the pity. I wish we had someone like Mr Narayanamurthy, as you suggested, leading our country.

  4. I am so tired of the endless rhetoric of politicians in this country, too! It has nothing to do with what's good for the country or its people, it has to do with POWER and it's disgusting, disturbing and frightening to many of us. It's even sadder that it is happening in so many countries today.


  5. You have not mentioned a device that can calculate how many votes each e visit would yield. May be our technologists could make calculations and assure our bigwigs that a visit and e visit amount to the same vote returns. We can even lure them with offers of more votes if they stayed away. And why not hire a few software people to explain how to access e visits online?


  6. Cool idea! However, having been in the hospital for 3 days in April, I can tell you that the last thing I would want is some politician looking at me when I have tubes in my nose and arms!

  7. They will then see what we all see, and not just what is shown to them.

    As if they don't know already.
    It was a unexpected line from you.

  8. Big brother is being watched. Its not like the old times. Posts like these are an indication that they are indeed being 'watched'