The so-called ‘VIP culture’ in Delhi’s hospitals will become a thing of the past, Chief Minister Arvind Kejiriwal has pledged in a bid to guarantee equal standards of treatment for all segments of Indian society.
“I have directed the Health Dept to end VIP culture in govt hospitals. No more private rooms for VIPs,” the Chief Minister tweeted. “All citizens will get equal treatment, but it will be of the best quality.” In addition, he has also announced the addition of 13,899 beds to government hospitals in the national capital – “an unprecedented expansion of more than 120 percent over existing capacity of 11,353 beds”, with all facilities to offer “world class, state-of-the-art facilities.” Strengthening public health infrastructure in Delhi has been a priority of the state government, most notably through its Mohalla Clinics initiative.
Ending VIP culture in the city’s hospitals has been proposed repeatedly by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi for a number of years. In 2016, Health Minister Satyender Jain said “I have seen many hospitals where entire floors have been dedicated to VIP wards. In one such floor in Mahavir Hospital, I found only two beds in each room.” The previous year, Jain said that the “government has decided to do away with the VIP culture in the government hospitals. Our effort is to give everyone quality treatment irrespective of his income or other profile.”
VIP culture in India is considered ubiquitous. “Nothing in India is immune from the VIP effect,” activist Seema Mustafa said in 2015 with a letter published in The Irish Times explaining “there is a privileged security drill for such elites at airports, railway stations and even tollbooths on highways. There are VIP entrances at temples and other public places, leading to elite enclosures at cricket matches and other sporting events, music, fashion and even art shows.”
Whether the new push to do away with such a culture will bear fruit remains to be seen. The appetite for such a move, however, is understandable: for the wealthy to receive preferential treatment at the expense of patients at lower levels of the economic ladder can be seen to symbolise the inequalities prevalent within India’s healthcare system, where accessibility and quality is often contingent upon status and wealth.