Indian Journal of Public Health

: 2012  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 246--247

Unregulated private health care in India: The case of a Kolkata hospital fire

N Nakkeeran 
 Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, Ahmadabad, Gujarat, India

Correspondence Address:
N Nakkeeran
Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar,Sardar Patel Institute Campus,Drive in Road,Thaltej, Ahmadabad, Gujarat

How to cite this article:
Nakkeeran N. Unregulated private health care in India: The case of a Kolkata hospital fire.Indian J Public Health 2012;56:246-247

How to cite this URL:
Nakkeeran N. Unregulated private health care in India: The case of a Kolkata hospital fire. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 May 16 ];56:246-247
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In the past year, Kolkata has been in the news for various bad reasons. This one tops them all: 91 lives were lost in a deadly hospital fire, for no fault of theirs, for no meaningful cause; while someone made money.

Such accidents are, however, not isolated events. We already have a history of several series of such accidents in hospitals and perhaps, more are waiting to happen. The Private Hospital Industry has grown in an autonomous manner with the government having little control over it. In most cities they have grown as monsters, killing you either by negligence or by over-billing. We hear stories of even district-level health officials being barred entry. The process of accreditation of hospitals has been a slow process with only about 118 hospitals holding National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) accreditation currently and another 440 hospitals' application pending. [1]

One wonders what makes the private hospital sector so powerful compared with say the private educational sector. If we look at the private schools in a state like Tamil Nadu, it is getting increasingly regulated by the government, thanks to the active role of parents' associations and civil society agitations. Although the story of higher education is starkly different, school education in many ways, including fee cap, [2] common syllabus, school transport, and amenities are being regulated by the state machinery. A district education officer can inspect schools, call for a meeting of school principals and even strongly discipline them. Schools and associations of these schools comply with them to a greater degree. These are unimaginable in the case of private hospitals. One wonders what makes these two sectors so different.

While the Private Hospital Industry is growing in an increasingly unregulated fashion, in many states, the government is merrily going shopping for private providers for government-funded programs. This is after more than five decades of ribbon-cutting to open government facilities all over.

In Andhra Pradesh, more than one-sixth of state health budget is flowing in to the Aarogyasri scheme, which focuses on tertiary care provided largely through private hospitals. [3] Although a popular scheme, it has essentially become a "means to fund corporate hospital" [4] industry that has "near absolute control over the lucrative program". [4] The state's health budget has increased more than 100% since 2005-2006 and attributed significantly to growth in spending on tertiary care, thus showing how this program "distorts the pattern of health care in the state". [4] Most other states have also introduced similar schemes.

The same city has been seeing a spate of neonatal deaths in the recent months. In this case, state-run hospitals were at the center of the storm. [5] Perhaps this is one of the important reasons why the government is not able to seriously regulate private hospitals in the country. Tragically, disasters in India remain only as a media blurt for a day or two. Health, in particular, public health has to be part of our political socialization.


1"NABH Accredited Hospitals" Available from: [Last accessed 2011 Dec 25].
2"Raviraja Pandian committee submits revised fee structure for TN private schools". Times of India, June 13, 2011. Available from: [Last accessed 2011 Dec 25].
3Bharadwaj A. "Arogyaandhra… Healthy Andhra", April 15, 2011. Available from: [Last accessed 2011 Dec 25].
4Shukla R, Shatrugna V, Srinivasan R. Aarogyasri healthcare model: Advantage private sector. Econ Polit Wkly 2001;49:38-42.
5"Baby allegedly dies after mother cleaned with acid". Times of India, November 2, 2011. Available from: [Last accessed 2011 Dec 25].