Saturday, June 30, 2012

65 years of Independence, and the state of health care infrastructure in India is shockingly poor


I usually look forward to the weekends. Even though there are no holidays as such for one who works more from home than from the office, the weekends continue to bring a sort of leisurely charm. When the weather is on your side and when there is the Euro Cup and Wimbledon going, it’s quite a lot to keep you in cheer. The past few days have, however, been slightly unnerving, what with a senior member of the family unwell and various tests conducted and reports collected. There have been visits to the doctor, the specialist and others for gathering varied shades of opinion.

It’s only when you read stories about the real India, that you realise how lucky we all are, born and brought up in the towns and cities, where access to most things basic is not very difficult, where there are indeed doctors and specialists to consult. While editing stories for a journal, I was left wondering how little we have achieved as a country even if you are to consider something as basic as infrastructure. Good roads, clean drinking water, proper transport… health care. Do we even realise that as we click pictures on Fb or chat or call, there are pregnant women desperate to get to a clinic miles away, that there is no transport worth the name to take them, that in the so-called public health centres or clinics, there are no doctors. And people, especially the tribals, the poor, the villagers, are struggling just to be alive. 

Yes, sixty-five years of Independence, and the state of health care infrastructure in our country is shockingly poor. In rural India, home to 70 per cent of the population, many villages still remain cut off. If there is a medical emergency there is no hospital to go to, transport is non-existent, the so-called public health centres do not function properly, there are no doctors or nurses. In many villages in Odisha, senior medical officers’ posts have been lying vacant for the past 12 years; there is no anaesthetist, so no major surgery. No gynaecologist either. It’s a nightmare for pregnant women, many babies die after being born due lack of medical intervention; deaths among infants below five years have been scored at 90 for every 1000 children. In these parts, life lies, well, truly in God’s hands 

In Sikkim, the September 2011 quake turned out to be an eye-opener. People saw firsthand the inadequacy of the state’s healthcare system. The only place that offered hope to the stricken people was Gangtok, the state capital – there were hospitals there capable of handling emergencies. One tribal woman was lucky; she gave birth to a baby minutes after being airlifted from her village to Gangtok. It’s a sad reflection of how an Indian state lies cut off, neglected and forgotten. Will P.A. Sangma contesting the Presidential election change anything on the ground? We all know what the answer is.

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