Gujarat govt fails to "operationalise" 110 new emergency ambulances, 10 for coastal areas, in stipulated time frame

GVK-EMRI emergency ambulances lying idle in
Naroda, Ahmedabad, "pending fabrication"
By Sumit Kumar Ganguly*
Even as the Gujarat government continues to claim that it the one of the two pioneering states – the other being Andhra Pradesh – in introducing free emergency services through what are identified as 108 ambulances, a Right to Information (RTI) reply suggests the failure to operationalize 110 new ones across the state within four months it was supposed to do.
As of August 2017, when the emergency service, run by the Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) of the Secunderabad-based GVK group, completed 10 years of operation in Gujarat, were in all 585 emergency 108 ambulances.
Following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Jandurbhai Menshibhai Baladhiya of Shiyalbet island, off Saurashtra coast, the Gujarat High Court asked the state government to ensure that 110 new 108 ambulances were made operational within a period of four months.
The order, which is dated August 18, 2017, followed a state government affidavit in the High Court, which said it would provide these ambulances in four months, also stated that of these new ambulances, 10 should be earmarked and allocated exclusively for the coastal areas of Gujarat.
The affidavit also stated that base vehicles of 110 new ambulances had been bought, and fabrication work was on.
On being told by Baladhiya that no new vehicles had been working in the coastal area of Saurashtra where he lived, as promised by the state government, I filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, on January 5, 2018 before the Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Gujarat.
The RTI application specifically referred to the Gujarat High Court Order dated August 18, 2017, which is based on the PIL by Baladhiya.
Scanned from RTI reply: Vehicles "working"
in coastal harbours
The RTI plea wanted information on (1) whether the 110 new 108 ambulances have been made operational; (2) whether 10 such new 108 ambulances out of the 110 had been earmarked and allocated exclusively for the coastal areas; and (3) whether the 10 new 108 ambulances had been made operational in the coastal areas.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the state health department transferred the RTI application to the PIO, Office of the Deputy Director (Medical Services), on January 12, 2018. The PIO and Deputy Director (Medical Services), who sent across his reply dated February 7, 2018, appeared to evade answering the three questions directly.
However, in his reply he said that 112 base vehicles for 108 ambulances had been “purchased” from Tata (37) and Force (75), adding, online tenders had been invited for the fabrication of the base vehicles.
Meanwhile, he said, Board Level Committee (BLC) of the Gujarat Medical Services Corporation Ltd had “examined” the issue, but failed to arrive at any conclusion on whom to give tender for completing the fabrication work. He added, the matter would be taken up at the next BLC meeting.
Clearly, the new 110 emergency ambulances had neither been prepared nor allocated.
Based on information provided by the GVK-EMRI, the RTI reply also lists seven coastal spots where the 108 ambulances have been running. However, it does not say whether any new 108 ambulances are running on these spots.
The seven locations are Jakhau Harbour (Kutch district), Okha Harbour (Devbhumi Dwarka district), Porbandar Harbour (Porbandar district), Mangrol Harbour (Junagadh district), Veraval Harbour (Gir Somnath district), Navabandar Harbour (Gir Somnath district), and Jafrabad Harbour (Amreli district).
The RTI reply attaches photographs of the seven ambulances. According to locals, the photographs of the ambulances were willfully taken to the respective harbours for the purpose showing that the coastal ambulance service was working perfectly well.
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*Research associate, Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad. Contact: sumitkrganguly@gmail.com

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