When citizens and non government organisations have to get court orders for even regular administrative decisions to be taken, it indicates without a doubt that the administration is just not working efficiently. The High Court of Bombay at Goa has now directed the State and the Central governments to set up the State Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (SOTTO) in Goa within six months, and to make available necessary cross-matching facilities. Ironically, it has been made mandatory by the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) for all States to have SOTTO in place so that organs and tissues are collected scientifically from donors and provided to patients.
Did the government of Goa and the government of India need court directions to set up an organisation such as this – an organisation that will save lives – in the State? It’s appalling that the government cannot act on its own in forming such an organisation that to many people is a matter of life and death.
The court directions in this case are said to be the first by any high court in the country, and while the petitioners in the case – Mango Foundation – have the right to be proud, the government has to bow its head in shame that it was unable to set up the organ transplant organisation within the stipulated time. While the State defends itself stating that its proposal for setting up SOTTO was sent to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and is pending with the Centre, it is also relevant that the proposal, as pointed out during arguments in the court, was sent on January 1, 2018 which was delayed.
The lack of SOTTO has already cost Goa quite dearly. In April this year, the absence of the organisation in Goa came to the fore when the organs of a man who was brain dead were harvested at a private hospital in Goa and then rushed to Mumbai, though there could have been recipients for the organs in Goa, with Goa Medical College even claiming it had a patient awaiting a kidney. This had prompted the State Health Department to order an inquiry into the incident, and the need for SOTTO was underlined. After instituting the inquiry, the Health Minister had said it was not to punish anybody, but to determine the lapses that led to three patients from Goa not benefitting from the harvested organs.
Goa Medical College had come under fire for having allowed the harvested organs to be transported to Mumbai. So what steps, if any, did the government take in the past few months to expedite the proposal for a SOTTO that is pending with the Union Ministry? Earlier, the Goa chapter of the Indian Medical Association had also expressed its concern over the delay in setting up SOTTO, but the process was never expedited. Just last month the Health Minister had announced the SOTTO which is in the final stages of being set up would be notified in a day to two. More than a fortnight later, the High Court has had to direct that SOTTO be set up and given the State and Centre six months to do it.
As in most issues concerning the government, other than announcements, there is little of note that is done in the State. Time and again it is the courts that have come to the rescue of the people. The State has to answer to the people as to what measures did it take after April this year to expedite the process of setting up the SOTTO. Even if it did take any such measures or just allowed the proposal to languish in the Union Ministry.