English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Good intentions have become a headache

Good intentions have become a headache

Good intentions, even when they don’t pave the road to hell, can cause a lot of problems for everybody, including the intended beneficiaries. The Supreme Court’s overreach in the time of corona has a similar potential.

The motivation is undoubtedly laudable—to help migrant workers, the poor, to make healthcare affordable. Today, the top court ordered that migrant workers should not be given free transport, rail or road, if they want to go back to their native places. It also directed the authorities in states and Union Territories (UTs) to give them food, shelter, and water.

The order was given by a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan. It included Justices S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah. “The state shall oversee the registration of migrant workers. It should ensure that after registration, migrant workers are made to board the train or bus at an early date and complete information should be publicized to all concerned,” said the bench.

The government doesn’t seem to be amused. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended that what the court wants is already being done. The “direction from the court may encourage people to move,” IANS reported him of having told the court.

On the SC’s direction that the Centre and states furnish all necessary details regarding the number of migrants, plans for transportation, mechanism of registration and other details, Mehta replied, “We need 10 days to reply. All officials are doing a lot of work.”

The government’s discomfiture is understandable. As it is, various organs at various levels are stretched beyond the endurance point. Quite apart from the fiscal strain, there are the issues of huge numbers of migrant laborers and capacity constraints. Free travel and free food for the needy cannot be made available just by wishing it.

To be fair to different governments and political parties, we have to say that, whatever one may say about their competence, nobody can doubt their intentions. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true: it is their good intentions that have created many problems. Had our politicians not imposed and extended the nationwide lockdown thrice to save us, there would not have been any migrant labor exodus problem in the first place.

Nor the apex court’s good intentions are becoming a problem. Yesterday, another bench, under Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy, wanted to know “why can’t private hospitals, given land free of cost, treat Covid-19 patients for free.”

Solicitor General Mehta had to inform the Lordships that this was a policy issue and, therefore, had to be decided by the government.

At any rate, private hospitals do pay back by treating poor patients free of cost. These hospitals cannot be expected to run like charitable institutions.

As we mentioned in an earlier article (<a href="https://indianarrative.com/analysis/free-corona-testing-by-private-labs-a-bad-idea-689.html">https://indianarrative.com/analysis/free-corona-testing-by-private-labs-a-bad-idea-689.html</a>) in response to the SC verdict that corona testing be free of cost, “philanthropy comes and should come from the heart; it can’t be thrust upon individuals or private enterprises by executive fiats and judicial orders.”

Also, “philanthropy cannot be mixed with business. The top tycoons like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Azim Premji have donated billions of dollars for the needy, but they have done it out of their own volition and out of their own earnings. However, they didn’t run their businesses like charitable organizations. As businessmen, they are as devoted to profit maximization as any other magnate. In fact, Gates is has attracted accusations of monopoly practices.”

In short, while compassion for the poor is a noble sentiment, it should not result in sentimentalism. For policy should be informed by facts and prudence, not sentimentalism..