Mumbai: BMC ‘blacklists’ Praja Foundation over ‘misleading’ health report

Mumbai: The long-standing fight between Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Praja Foundation over a health report reached a critical point on Monday with the Mumbai civic body issuing a notice to the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) declaring them ‘Persona Non-Grata’ for “misinterpreting” facts in their report which was published on July 12.

The health officials said that the Municipal Commissioner would decide whether the financial contributors of the NGO should be informed about the same to make the outfit redundant. Officials said that they were going to upload all the data about communicable and non-communicable diseases on the online portal of the civic body to offer complete transparency to the public. “The randomly collected information has been misinterpreted and misrepresented without being aware of the basic knowledge of the national health program and presented without concerning any senior health officials,” said Dr Shantaram Naik, Deputy Executive Health Officer.

Also Read: BMC has very little to show on public health: Praja Foundation

The civic body said that the Praja Foundation in the report ‘State of Health of Mumbai’, “misinterpreted” the facts. It said the report is “misleading” and is an “attempt to malign” the image of the civic body. Praja Foundation had claimed that tuberculosis patients are dropping out of government-run Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS). The report said the drop-outs had increased by 10 per cent between 2012 and 2017. The foundation also said dengue deaths in Mumbai have doubled in the past five years with a 265 per cent rise in dengue positive patients.

“Default rate of TB cases is calculated for the year 2012 based on total cases while the calculation for 2016 is based on the total new cases as a result, the figure arrived is inflated and misguiding,” mentioned the notice. The officials further added that the NGO, while analyzing dengue cases, indicated an increase in a number of cases over the years 2012-13 to 2016-17. However, they failed to consider if the cases were suspected or confirmed.

A senior health official said that the new strategies and change in protocols over the years have not been taken into consideration. “The interpretations of these randomly collected data have been added up and unclear values have been displayed which lacks the basic scientific methodology,” added official. “It is a way of sensationalizing the figures and earning money through offshore donors and organisations by creating panic situations,” said BMC officials while revealing the reason for the notice.

Also Read: Praja Foundation gets BMC notice for ‘misinterpreting’ facts

Commenting on the issue, managing trustee of Praja Foundation Nitai Mehta said that they would respond to the notice soon in a legal manner. “It is BMC’s data which we present to people to bring more transparency in the system. The fact is that the officials hate being shown a mirror and thus the reaction. We will respond to them in a suitable manner,” said Mehta.

He state that the organisation wasn’t scared of the civic body’s threats about contacting their donors. “We are not a profit-making organisation, our aim is to improve the health system of the city. And if they stop funding from one source, we will ensure our sustainability through others,” Mehta added.

The history of the clash

  • The BMC had in July served a notice to the NGO after it revealed the poor conditions of BMC hospitals and the health department.
  • In a letter sent on July 13, to the managing trustee of Praja Foundation Nitai Mehta, by deputy municipal commissioner (public health) Sunil Dhamne and executive health officer Dr Padmaja Keskar, the BMC had stated that the whole aim of the exercise undertaken by the NGO was to malign a public body and mislead citizens.
  • The BMC had also demanded a public apology and warned that if same wasn’t done then legal action would be initiated.