New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab Saturday defended Health Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra — who’s currently at the centre of a controversy for forcing the vice-chancellor of a medical college in Faridkot to lie on a patient’s bed — saying that his “intentions were clean”. However, the ruling party described the incident as “unfortunate”.
Jouramajra has been facing criticism from political opponents and the medical fraternity for forcing Dr. Raj Bahadur of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences to lie on a patient’s bed after holding him responsible for its poor state.
Dr. Bahadur, a noted spinal surgeon, reportedly sent his resignation to the government.
“We respect the concerned official as a medical professional. There’s no doubt about that. But we should also consider the condition of the hospital bed, which was visible in the videos that surfaced later, and think who’s responsible for it. It was an unfortunate incident. It should not have happened,” Malvinder Kang, AAP’s chief spokesperson for Punjab, said at a press conference Saturday.
He further said: “However, the health minister’s intentions were clean. His only objective is to upgrade health facilities and provide better facilities to the people of Punjab. So, it should not be politicised.”
On being asked about Dr. Bahadur’s resignation and the Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association asking Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to direct his minister to apologise, Kang said: “Resignations and apology [are not] solutions. At the end of the day, a large number of the poor visit government hospitals and the quality of service in these facilities is concerning. We need to focus on improving the quality of service”.
Opposition parties Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal, and the Bharatiya Janata Party have called the incident “shameful” and demanded action against the minister.
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said in a tweet Saturday that he had visited the doctor after the incident.
“I couldn’t see eye to eye with Dr Raj Bahadur Ji, as there was helplessness in his eyes. It was not he who felt insulted and humiliated, but all of us together. Entire Punjab stands in solidarity with you, Sir,” Warring’s tweet said.
On being asked about the criticism, Kang said: “If there’s someone to blame for the poor state of affairs in Punjab’s healthcare, it’s the previous Congress and Akali governments. Their tenures were marked with rampant corruption, scandals, and scams.”
On Friday, AAP leader and Punjab Assembly Speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan reportedly said: “It was an unfortunate incident. We all are part of this system and should work as a team to improve the situation, which has been gradually rotting for the past many years.”
Chief Minister Mann is yet to comment on the issue.
The incident took place Friday when Jouramajra — accompanied by officials and camerapersons — went to the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences for a surprise inspection. While inspecting the wards of the government hospital, he found a patient’s bed to be dirty, a senior official in the Punjab government who didn’t want to be identified told ThePrint.
The official said the minister began yelling at the vice-chancellor over the state of the bed and forced him to lie on it saying he was responsible for it.
A video of the incident later circulated on social media.
Jouramajra was among the five ministers inducted into Punjab’s Cabinet earlier this month. He was given the charge of the state’s health ministry, earlier held by Vijay Singla, who was sacked in May over corruption charges.
Twelve of AAP’s 92 MLAs are doctors, and two of these are ministers in Mann’s government — Baljeet Kaur, an ophthalmologist who’s Punjab’s social security minister, and Inderbir Singh Nijjer, a radiologist who’s the local bodies minister.
Jouramajra’s election affidavit shows he’s a farmer who has graduated high school (Class 12). He’s known to have had a long association with AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal.
A senior Punjab-based AAP functionary said the 55-year-old Jouramajra, a first-time MLA from Samana in Patiala district, was first associated with activist Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption — the social movement to which AAP owes its roots — in 2011. It was during the movement at Delhi’s Ram Leela Maidan, in fact, that Jouramajra came in touch with Kejriwal.
He’s been an active worker of the AAP in its Punjab unit since 2014 but has never contested an election before 2022.
In 2019, Jouramajra, who was then the AAP’s Patiala (rural) unit president, was in the news for having sustained a bullet injury while successfully saving a girl from being abducted.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)