Dying children in Bihar, a pan-India tale of health service buried under squalor, poverty and heat

Dying children in Bihar, a pan-India tale of health service buried under squalor,poverty and heat

Samikhsya Bureau

There is only one takeaway from watching on television channels or reading in newspapers on what is happening in a premier medical college in Bihar: we are leaving in a country where disparity in everything is the only absolute reality.

Not to be economical with the truth, such ruthless reality is pan-India and if one delves into the bottom then the only gist that emerges is, it is a cyclic phenomenon that will last for years to come. It may be for years or even decades.

Make-in-India or ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ or ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikash and Biswas’  type of sloganeering are just some writings on the wall for one section of the society to read, while a majority gets simply fretted by the hidden pretensions behind those symbolism.

Whether it is about encephalitis deaths in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur or Odisha’s Malkangiri, the understanding that medical service is somehow part of the human rights issue has really failed to be so in many places in the country.

But, the end result is, as always, the same. The chief ministers or concerned union ministers come and hog the headlines by promises to do this and that, by so and so time.

Just like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar coming to the site amid the sobbing of the bereaved parents, talking to the medical staff and then releasing a hand-out in which there were lofty promises for either a 100 bed ICU or a super speciality hospital at an astronomical cost the chief minister or his advisers may be not aware of exactly.

About 140 deaths of children, a news that can rattle the nerves of any civilised country, but for leaders it is an incident only. That’s the same mental syndrome everywhere.

There were hectic reactions from the ruling dispensation at the centre over the doctors’ strike because it had its root from West Bengal, the land of Mamata Banerjee!

But over the incident in Bihar, hardly any heckles seem to have raised except the Union minister of health Harshvardhan, as if, grudgingly endorsing the promises made by the chief minister till he was grilled away by the media.

What really surprises is, if patients are swarming in to that hospital in such large number despite it being bereft of all facilities those matter or required, then why not the affected children were being transported in ambulances to Patna, which is barely a two hours drive from Muzaffarpur?

“There, the situation is indeed horrible, and if anything is there, those stands out, that is, ‘gandagi’, ‘garibi’ aur ‘garmi’ (squalor, poverty and heat)” said Brajesh Mishra, a senior journalist who had reported from ground zero two days back. “Look at the attitude of the staff there, they do not switch on the air-condition inside the ICUs and the ceiling fans elsewhere are not so functional”

And, imagine how a major space inside an ICU is allowed to become a ground-zero coverage area by all the media channels, which is fraught with all infections for the children on the bed or on the floor. Fine that the issue is being highlighted by the media but , there has to be a line of limit drawn inside ICUs.

It is not much different in many such health institutions elsewhere. And, perhaps, the political leaders never go for treatment to these places. They only visit these institutions when few hundred die and then hog the limelight through promises.