Opinion

With two RSS members convicted for bombing Ajmer shrine, should the organisation be banned again?

Given the power the organisation commands, the terror links of its members are alarming.

On October 11, 2007, an explosion ripped through the 800-year-old shrine of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti in the Rajasthani town of Ajmer. The attack was timed well: it was the month of Ramzan, and a crowd had gathered outside the dargah to break their fast. The bomb, placed inside a tiffin box, killed three people.

It took a court verdict on Wednesday to rekindle some interest in the case. Three people were convicted for the terror bombing. Two of them – Devendra Gupta and Sunil Joshi – have been identified in court records as “RSS pracharaks”.

At a time when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh controls the levers of power in the Union government itself, what does it means for India that members of this hardline Hindutva organisation conducted a terror strike on a Sufi shrine?

RSS and state power

The RSS is no ordinary body. The Jan Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s earlier avatar, was founded – the BJP’s own website informs us – “after consultation with Shri Golwalkar Guruji of the RSS”. The BJP, thus, is the political arm of the RSS.

The BJP’s top leadership is drawn from the RSS. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself was an RSS pracharak till he was transferred to the BJP in 1987, and the organisation dominates his cabinet: in 2014 when he became prime minister, 12 of his ministers had links to the RSS. The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, was also an RSS pracharak before being shifted to front-end politics. In neighbouring Maharashtra, the entire cabinet takes public governance lessons from the RSS, which is headquartered in the state’s Nagpur city.

Since Modi came to power, the role of the RSS in the government has been broadcast – quite literally. The state-owned television network Doordarshan telecasts the Vijay Dashami speech of RSS head Mohan Bhagwat live every year, a remarkable use of goverment machinery for private ends.

This influence extends to the day-to-day running of the Union government as well as various BJP-controlled state governments. On Tuesday, for example, the New York Times reported that a Christian charity proscribed by the Union government was forced to negotiate its ban not with bureaucrats or ministers but with RSS functionaries. In July, the Union minister of human resource development, Prakash Javadekar, met with RSS functionaries to decide what the new national education policy would be.

Ajmer attack link

As foreboding as the conviction of the two RSS pracharaks in the 2007 Ajmer terror blast is, it gets murkier with the involvement of Swami Aseemanand. Aseemanand was a senior RSS pracharak working with Adivasi groups in Gujarat. He had, in a confessional statement to a magistrate in a Delhi court, admitted to planning the Ajmer blast. In an interview to Caravan magazine last year, he alleged that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had himself sanctioned the bombing.

In spite of the confession, the special National Investigation Agency court on Wednesday acquitted Aseemanand. The court verdict came even as more than three dozen witnesses turned hostile in the case, pointing to grave lapses by the Union government-controlled National Investigation Agency.

This isn’t the first time that the Modi government has been accused of blocking investigations into cases of Hindutva terror. In 2015, Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon terror attack case – a bombing in the Maharashtra city that killed four Muslims during Ramzan – complained that she had faced pressure from the National Investigation Agency to “go soft” on the case since Modi took power in 2014.

A history of terror

This, of course, is not the first time an RSS member has been convicted for murder. Gopal Godse, the brother of Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, confirmed that the latter was an RSS worker. This led to the organisation being banned by the then Union Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel. Eight months after the assassination, Patel wrote to the RSS head, MS Golwalkar, blaming the organisation’s communalism for leading to Gandhi’s murder. Patel even claimed that RSS men had distributed sweets to celebrate the killing.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was also banned during the Emergency in 1975 and after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.

In most circumstances, the Ajmer terror attack would have given rise to a conversation about the role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its ideology and whether it deserves to be banned like it was after Gandhi’s assassination. If, in 1948, Patel could discuss the “communal poison” that led to Gandhi’s assassination, India in 2017 should also seriously consider what elements of the RSS’ ideology led two of its pracharaks to bomb an 800-year-old Muslim shrine.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.