Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma courted controversy on Tuesday after he shared medical information of the beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat scheme on social media.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana(PMJAY)-Ayushman Bharat from Ranchi on Sunday. Late on Monday, Sarma tweeted that within 24 hours of the launch, 21 patients in Assam had benefited from the scheme.
"It's heartening to share that within 24 hours of its launch we have given benefits of Ayushman Bharat to 21 needy patients across different hospitals in Assam. Likely rise in numbers from Tuesday," he said. He also attached a list carrying names of 21 beneficiaries, the hospitals they were admitted to, and the ailments they were suffering from.
Several Twitter users outraged over the tweet, and called out the Assam minister for violating the right to privacy of the patients.
This is absolutely ridiculous! How can you share private personal health information like that! If you were in Europe or US you would have been saying goodbye to your chair and probed!
— Asif (@Asif_DrMed) September 24, 2018
Insensitive & irresponsible to publish private info of patients. Would you like names & illnesses of own family published like this? The scheme, like any other, is good ONLY if introduced with right intent & delivered well; not if used solely to make political capital.
— Raj (@50raj66) September 25, 2018
Is this not violation of privacy to publish patient names with their medical issues and hospital on social media? Have they consented to this? #AyushmanBharatYojana — Vijaya Moorthy (@vmoorthynow) September 25, 2018
First you can’t share this. Second we’re these services at the Guwahati medical college not free earlier? — Suma (@sumatweet) September 25, 2018
Shame @himantabiswa basic data privacy not maintained,so much for aadhar data safety 😩 @ProfCong @AIPCAssam @ShashiTharoor @rajeevgowda @INCIndia Since there is no law, there is no fear-else this dude would be behind bars for displaying patient info-2include in #2019 manifesto — Anand Mathews (@anandmathews) September 25, 2018
Good job! I'm sure these 21 innocent people wanted the whole world to know they had some medical issues!!! Don't you guys have any sense? The extent you guys go to for cheap publicity - it's sickening!!!👎 — O҉l҉d҉ ҉M҉o҉n҉k҉ (@0ld_Monk) September 25, 2018
Patient info on social media? You seriously need to learn what privacy means. — NAVEEN SODEM (@nisar_naveen) September 25, 2018
Following the criticism, the tweet was taken down on Tuesday.
The incident comes at a time when the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on Wednesday. The verdict will decide questions such as if Aadhaar breaches an individual's fundamental right to privacy.
While rolling out the scheme on Sunday, Modi called it a "game-changer initiative to serve the poor" and said: "PMJAY-Ayushman Bharat is the biggest government-sponsored healthcare scheme in the world. The number of beneficiaries is almost equal to the population of Canada, Mexico and the US taken together." More than 1,300 ailments are covered under the scheme, including heart diseases, kidney and liver disorders and diabetes.
Through the scheme, the government aims to provide coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family annually, which would benefit more than 50 crore people for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation through a network of empanelled health care providers.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Sep 25, 2018 22:42 PM