Nitai Mehta
Nitai Mehta

The BMC has issued a show cause notice to an NGO, Praja Foundation, for maligning the public body and misleading citizens, after it published data about the rising number of TB patients dropping out of treatment, and dengue cases in the city in a report - The State of Health in Mumbai. If the NGO fails to provide an explanation for the report, action will be initiated against it.

Praja works for the social development of the city and uses RTI to gather information. It published its annual health report on July 12. It stated that there has been a drastic drop in the enrollment of TB patients in treatment programmes. In 2012, 30,828 patients had registered in a year-long programme. In 2016, there were 15,767 new enrollments. But an even more dangerous proposition is the increasing number of defaulters on a year-to-year basis.

Compared to 2,638 that dropped out in 2012, in 2016, a much higher number of people by comparison, 2,927, that makes for a 10 per cent hike – defaulted from the programme. The survey also stated that in the past five years, there has been a 265 per cent rise in cases of dengue.

Show cause notice
BMC refuted the figures that were gathered through RTI, and sent a show cause notice to the NGO on July 13. "While publishing the data you have not consulted any programme officers and not understood how data is to be analysed in a scientific way, and that the facts should have been brought to the notice of public health authorities, before publishing the results. You should issue an unconditional apology and public clarification, or action deemed fit will be initiated against you," reads the letter sent on July 13 by the deputy municipal commissioner (public health) Sunil Dhamne and executive health officer Dr Padmaja Keskar to Nitai Mehta, the managing trustee of the NGO.

To address such issues of alleged misrepresentation of data, the BMC has decided to henceforth upload all data related to health on its website on a monthly basis.

Maligning BMC's image
Talking to mid-day, a senior health officer said, "BMC works round the clock for the development of people. By this wrong data presentation, they are just maligning our image. So we will make all the data available online to bring transparency." "Earlier also we held several meetings with them and made them understand the analytical mistakes they make. But they do the same thing every time," the officer added.

On July 10 this year, BMC issued a notice to the NGO regarding a white paper on the status of malnutrition in municipal schools last month. The BMC demanded a public apology and clarification, as it alleged the NGO had ignored the procedural change involved in the screening of malnutrition for different years. BMC also claimed the NGO used its data but changed the norms.

NGO says
Nitai Mehta, Founder and Managing Trustee of Praja Foundation said, "I haven't received the official letter from BMC. Until I see it I won't be able to comment on it."