Elderly patients from the Parsi ward of Sir J J Hospital were taken to Colaba on October 11 to vote for elections to the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) trust by a candidate without the permission of the hospital’s dean.
At least four patients were taken in a private vehicle to the voting centre at Cusrow Baug in Colaba for casting their ballots, according to members of staff at the ward. Meanwhile, eye-witnesses at the voting centre said that the patients were pushed in wheelchairs or made to walk with the help of volunteers to the special voting counter for the elderly and physically handicapped.
One 75-year old patient with diabetes and severe sores on one of his legs bore the mark of the indelible ink on the index finger of the left hand.
According to an attendant at the ward, the sores have deteriorated after he was made to walk to the voting booth from the vehicle. A woman in her eighties who could not speak coherently too bore the ink mark indicating that she too had voted.
A poster put up by a candidate seeking votes hung just outside the entrance to the ward. There was another poster inside the men’s section of the two-storey ward where 45 odd patients, all elderly, are housed. A majority of inmates are bedridden and could not have been taken out of the ward.
Voting to elect seven trustees of the BPP are being held over three weekends this month. The last phase of the election is scheduled this weekend. Around 10,000 of the 28,000 registered voters have exercised their franchise so far.
Chief Executive Officer of BPP, Mehli Colah said that the patients had voters registration cards issued by the BPP. “I know that many patients had come to vote.
But I have no idea whether they had permission of hospital authorities to leave the hospital,” said Colah. Acting dean of Sir J J Group of Hospitals, Dr R S Inamdar said that he had no knowledge of patients being taken out of the Parsi ward. “No patient can be taken out without our knowledge. I have not given any permission,” Inamdar said.
Dean Dr B M Sabnis who is now on leave said that he had not given permission to take the patients out of the ward. “The doctor in charge of the ward can only discharge a patient.
But we do not grant permission for patients to be taken out for voting in elections. Permissions are given only for emergencies like a relatives funeral,” he said.
Meanwhile Dr Rushad Udwadia who is the in-charge of the Parsi ward expressed surprise that he was not informed about patients being taken out of the ward.
“I am sorry to hear that patients were taken to vote. I do not know who gave the permission. It is strange,” he said. “We normally do not allow patients to leave the hospital.
” The candidate Arnavaz Mistry who took the patients for voting said, “I had taken only two patients, one of whom is an uncle of mine, for voting. Everyone has a right to vote and for the record, I have taken all permissions necessary to take the patients out.
We have regularly taken the patients out on picnics. Those who are objecting to them being taken out can come and see the permissions.”
Mistry added that the posters put up in the hospital ward was meant for visitors and not the patients. “I have been doing social work at the hospital for many years.
The posters are for donors and relatives of patients,” she said.
But candidates said that it was a matter of concern that patients who could have been on medication were taken away to vote. The candidates are planning to file complaints with the BPP.
“Who will be held responsible if the health of the patient deteriorates during the travel or there is an accident involving the patient. This is an example of candidates taking advantage of poor and helpless people to garner votes,” said Dr Viraf Kapadia, a candidate.
Another candidate Dr Kuresh Zorabi said, “Old people who are not in a position to travel were brought from sanatoriums to vote. We have lodged complaints with the BPP’s election officer.” The Parsi ward for use of patients from the community was set up because the hospital was built with donations from philanthropist Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy.
The elections to BPP, one of the largest land owners in Mumbai has been marred by allegations that candidates have used unethical means to woo voters, including organising feasts and entertainment programmes for voters and even bringing voters from South Gujarat in buses.
• I am sorry to hear that patients were taken to vote. I do not know who gave the permission. It is strange —Dr Rushad Udwadia, in-charge of the Parsi ward