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Health matters to Jharkhand’s voters. Is the state government failing them?

When it comes to the electorate’s priorities, there are three clear things which stand out for voters in Jharkhand. They want better hospitals, better law and order and better employment opportunities. Yet a survey suggests the state government’s performance on these indicators is less than satisfactory.

While the Lok Sabha elections will conclude next month, Jharkhand will go to the polls in November, to elect its 81-member Legislative Assembly. In the last election, the BJP won an absolute majority of seats. This marked the first time in Jharkhand’s history that has been accomplished by a single party.

However, a survey by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) suggests that that vote of confidence from the electorate may not have materialised in meaningful progress on the issues which matter to them. The ADR scored the performance of the state government on the three issues. For better hospitals, the state government scored just 1.90 – lower than better employment opportunities and better law and order, on which the state government scored 2.11 and 2.39 respectively.

This is not the first time the state government has been in hot water because of its performance on healthcare. In 2017, following the Gorakhpur tragedy in Uttar Pradesh, a string of similar occurrences were brought to light in Jharkhand’s public hospitals. These included the deaths of 52 infants in a thirty-day period in the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College and Hospital in Jamshedpur and 133 child deaths in 28 days in the paediatric ward of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in state capital Rachi. This led to show cause notices being handed down to the state government, from both the Jharkhand High Court and the National Human Rights Commission.

The latest report  indicates that the situation has not improved in the nearly two years. Jharkhand is an example of the electorate voting for health. One wonders if the apparent underperformance on this key indicator could have a hand to play when results are announced in December.

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