Off the mark: National Crime Records Bureau data gives a misleading picture of environmental crime

Apparently, poor people living in and around forests break the law more than industrial polluters and illegal miners.

The National Crime Records Bureau has been collecting data on offences related to environment for three years now. But a closer look at the data suggests it is not a reliable indicator of the extent of environmental crime in the country.

Consider this: In 2016, Madhya Pradesh registered six cases under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, while the rest of India reported just five such cases. That these numbers are way off the mark is borne out by the fact that the Central Pollution Control Board has categorised as many as 150 rivers in the country as polluted. Or, take the Ganga and the Yamuna, which multiple studies have found are heavily polluted, largely from the discharge of untreated effluents by tanneries and other factories. Yet, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, no criminal case has been filed in the last three years against any polluter in the states through which the two rivers flow.

Similarly, just 25 offences under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act were registered across India in 2016, with Maharashtra alone accounting for 21. Delhi may be one of the most polluted cities in the world but it has not reported a single criminal offence under the air pollution law in the last three years.

It is not much different with offences under the Indian Forest Act. In August 2017, the Union mines ministry informed Parliament that more than 96,000 offences related to illegal mining of major and minor minerals had been reported in 2016-17. This is several times the total number of cases under different environmental laws recorded by the Bureau.

There are several reasons for the mismatch in the Bureau’s numbers and the ground reality. One is the reluctance of pollution control boards to file cases against polluters. As the environmental lawyer Meera Gopal pointed out, the regulators prefer issuing show cause notices to polluters because launching, and fighting, criminal proceedings is cumbersome.

From our discussions with the regulators and legal experts in different states, it emerged that the authorities are also reluctant to report, and punish, industrial polluters and illegal miners for fear of attracting “bad publicity”, which they hold would harm the economy as investors prefer “less litigant states”.

Another reason is that state officials tasked with implementing pollution control laws often do not fully comprehend them.

Unequal before the law?

While they rarely punish industrial polluters and illegal miners, pollution control officials often deploy the full might of the law against the deprived communities that are dependent on natural resources for livelihood such as the Adivasis.

From 2014 to 2016, as per the Bureau, 12,584 cases of violation of the Indian Forest Act were registered in the country, the most under any environmental law. In the same period, 2,458 cases of violation of the Wildlife Protection Act were registered.

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 is essentially aimed at extracting resource and excluding people from the forest, while the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 restricts human activity in protected areas such as national parks and tiger reserves.

Though the Bureau does not record the demographic characteristics of the people booked under the two laws, we found, after surveying 10 villages in Rajasthan’s Dhaulpur district in October-November 2016, that the majority of the accused in the state were poor people living in and around forests. Most were booked for gathering firewood and minor forest produce even though they are entitled to it under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

In other states, forest-dwellers were booked in criminal cases for carrying out agricultural activities or practising shifting cultivation on forest land, despite being legally allowed to do so if they had occupied the land prior to December 13, 2005.

Clearly then, the National Crime Records Bureau’s data is not an accurate measure of environmental crime. Indeed, even its method of gathering the data – taking only what is reported to it by state governments – is faulty. To generate a more accurate database, it needs to also collect data regarding complaints against polluters from the regulatory agencies and the departments charged with implementing environmental laws. At the same time, forest and wildlife authorities must work to make the communities dependent on natural resources for livelihood better aware of the environmental rules and regulations they seem to be disproportionately punished for allegedly violating.

Samriddhi is studying for a Master’s in Law and Economics at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Geetanjoy Sahu is associated with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, 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.