Our children are dying. Is anybody listening out there?Many of my readers and friends will complain on my month long absence from the print media. During this interregnum many friends telephoned and prompted me to continue to write. For a couple of days I looked for a theme to write on. There is no dearth of themes but there are also some compulsions. I decided today I will not touch upon any political theme. We have innumerable problems here like health, power, education, drinking water and many more things. It is so sad to think that our generations to come are getting callously killed in hospitals. We understand the Chief Minister is not going to the hospital to treat the ailing kid nor will he be able to bring clean drinking water to every household. But we will remind him of the mandate given to him by the people. Accordingly it is the duty of the Chief Minister and his government that he will not only issue orders to solve the problems of the people and not only present the plans wrapped in plethora of papers but will also see on the ground what is happening. Are his orders and instructions and plans carried out faithfully or not?
More than three hundred seventy new born babies died in G.B. Pant Hospital owing to the carelessness of the doctors concerned or the corruption of selling medicines to private shopkeepers. The Superintendent of the hospital was candid in saying that a “drug mafia was running in the hospital.” Kashmir Uzma splashed on its front page pictures of heaps of filth and garbage in the precincts of the hospital which in no way speak that this could be a hospital. Parents admit children in hospitals in the hope they would recover but the attendants have to buy emergency medicines from the open market.
This is not true of G.B. Pant hospital only. The situation in other hospitals in Jammu, Doda, Poonch and Srinagar is nothing different. In whichever government hospital one goes, one has to cover ones nose and mouth with a kerchief. Such is the obnoxious stench. Litter fills rooms and corridors of the hospital. Beds are without mattresses and sheets. If there is a sheet it has accumulated dirt for years at end. Only glucose is given free to patients and for any other medicine from a pill for headache to emergency medicines the caretakers are given the prescription and asked to buy these from market. Many poor people coming from far off places have been seen holding the prescription in their hands and begging for money to procure prescribed medicines. A patient requiring surgery of heart or kidney holds a letter from the surgeon and while begging shows it to the donors to help him. These people begging for money to treat their patients are now to be seen frequenting the streets of Srinagar. Why should not the government order a check of all pharmaceutical shops located around the precincts of government hospitals, scrutinize the memos related to purchase of medicines and also their licenses. No medical shop should be allowed to function within a radius of one mile from the main hospital.
Hospital employees from a class IV upward perform their duty as if they are asked to carry heavy burden on their shoulders. Despite being government employees doctors are running lucrative private business at their clinics and are amassing wealth. The government seems helpless to stem the rot. These stone–hearted doctors put the patients to great financial burden by advising them to go for private pathological laboratory tests where they have to spend thousands of rupees and the doctors get commission out of it.
In the name of pathological laboratories owners are playing with the lives of people throughout the city. Pay a casual visit to Karan Nagar and you will come across strange scenes at these laboratories. Leave aside waiting room, patients don’t get even a chair to sit down for while. It was bitter winter and I had to go to a laboratory to get MRI done. I found a ragtag of a sofa set and a few broken chairs and no arrangement of heating. Patients were shivering with cold. Fees charged for MRI is about Rs. 4500/- I had the opportunity of visiting a few more laboratories in the city where all that I could see was a counter, a few syringes and few bottle and a compounder sitting in a chair. In most of these laboratories even toilets do not exist. And if there was something by the name of toilet, it had no water or water pipe. It was a heap of filth and garbage that had not seen cleaning for years.
We are not against earning money but in a laboratory there is transaction worth anything between ten thousand rupees to two lakh rupees per day. Despite this huge income the owners are not prepared to spend a penny for providing comfort to the customers. Most of the owners seldom pay any tax on their income. One laboratory calling itself a branch of a Delhi-based laboratory claims that it gets the tests made at it’s headquarter in Delhi. But on making private enquiry we came to know that this laboratory gets all tests performed from a medical shop in Nishat area.
Clinics and Nursing Homes
Private clinics and nursing homes present no encouraging a picture. A handful of them have tried to improve their standard but most of them are in a hopeless condition. But such clines and nursing homes are outside the reach of a poor people or lower middle class person. It is generally said that in such hospitals normal delivery is discouraged and thousands of rupees are charged for caesarian operation. Fees in these surgical units touch the sky. It is said that many of these clinics and medical units are run without proper license and without observing medical rules which lead to environmental degradation and pollution. Refuse from these clinics is littered along the main road and there is nobody to raise eyebrow.
Corruption is rampant. A doctor is totally oblivious of the fact that against a small amount of money he is destroying the future generation. Rampant corruption and bribery has made every department obnoxious. In any civilized country death of a child owing to carelessness of the doctor is an extremely serious crime and not to speak of the concerned, even the health minister may be asked to resign... As against this the worst that can happen to our future generations will be witnessed in G.B. Pant hospital where 370 babies have died and the government is unmoved. This is not a hospital but butchery. May be it is a means to decimate future generations of Kashmiris not through gun but through another instrument called G.B. Pant hospital.
Sky rocketing dearness
Have a look at locally produced eatables. A packet of milk costs 16 rupees only a few years back. Now it cost thirty rupees. How did prices of eatables escalate twofold in just three years, people are unable to understand. Same is true about the price of vegetables. At shops in Maharaja Bazaar cereals are sold at the rate of 50-60 rupees a kilogram but when the same dal is packed in plythene bags it is sold at one hundred rupees a kilogram. Let us not talk about mutton and chicken. A Kashmiri cannot think of surviving without meat. We are importing meat worth 13 thousand million rupees a year.
It is our biggest problem. We have water resources to produce more than 22000 mgw of electricity. If electricity is provided free of cost to the entire state it will not cross 6000 mgws the surplus can be sold to India and Pakistan. This will help us stand on our own legs economically. Gas is plentiful in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. People are supplied free gas. Oil is plentiful in Arab countries. Hence petrol is cheap there. You may recount that once Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the grandfather of present CM once said that “if the electric department lineman comes to check you line, remove the ladder underneath his feet.” During his tenure Dr. Farooq said that “people may use heaters because they need to protect themselves from cold.” Before grabbing power NC leaders had instigated people in downtown against installing electric meters. We are not against paying electric fee or installing meters. But rulers must know that people are angry that despite having plentiful water resource India and Pakistan are taking its benefit and no royalty is paid to Kashmiris. As real owners of water resources, Kashmiris should get free and adequate electricity. If they have to pay it should be only a nominal charge. Human nature is such that it whether loot their resources they think it proper to steal. Many corrupt people argue that since India has forcibly occupied our land therefore taking bribes is just right. It may be mentioned that reports say that the agreement between the State governments under Sheikh Abdullah and the Union Ministry of Power signed in 1975 is missing. Along with that the cabinet decision No. 238 confirming the agreement is also missing from all records and files and the government has now constituted a task force to locate it. There are vested interests that have wrecked the PDD of the state.
We are not bringing accusations against anybody. On the pretext of imparting education to the children, parents are subjected to big loot. Three years ago a child paid anything between 800 and 900 rupees as fees per month. Now it has gone up to 3000 to 3500 rupees. A poor woman came to me for help towards the school fee of her kids. I asked why she would not send her kids to a government school instead of a private school. Her reply opened my eyes. She said teachers don’t come to government schools and there is no teaching at all. Imagine that a person with no means also wants to send her kids to a private school. This is a question which people in authority should reply. This is a reflection of the standard of education in government schools. A government school building has not the roof, and only broken walls. There are more than six teachers for two children in some schools and in other schools there are no more than five teachers for 200 students. Salary- wise teachers in government schools get highest pay scale. A teacher gets minimum of 20000 rupees per months. Their educational merit is not up to standard. Results of annual examination of students of government schools are almost zero in comparison to the results of private institutions. Can a department flourish whose minister helps his ward to copy in examination and secure high marks?
Some improvement has been visible after installing traffic lights. People should observe the rules so that all traffic laws and rules are implemented rightly. It is important for the convenience of people.
Despite plenty of water in Kashmir pure drinking water has remained elusive to the people for last six decades. Our womenfolk travel a few kilometers in snow and in sun to fetch drinking water in pots on their heads. It is not drinkable. PHE has provided large number of hand pumps and tube wells in far off rural areas. But the tragedy is that these become dysfunctional within six months of use and then there is no repairing of the project. God has gifted Arab world with plenty of oil. Once a litre of oil was sold at the rate of 2 or 5 rupees and today it is sold at the rate of 70 rupees. Who knows a bottle of water that is purchased at 15 rupees in India and Pakistan may go up to 70 rupees a bottle one day? Some Five Star hotels already sold a bottle of water 200 rupees.
I had promised not to write about politics this time. The passing away of the father of Yasin Malik has shown how much oppressed people of our state are, and how much they remain enchained. To join the funeral of his father, Yasin Malik who was just six hours motor journey away in Muzaffarabad had to travel to Islamabad – Bangkok-Delhi –Srinagar a total of 20 hours of continued flight. The blood line drawn on the body of the country did no allow him to cross it. There are many people whose near and dear ones on this or that side passed away but they could not join their funeral. It was 1969 or 1970. We were travelling along the bank of Kishen Ganga. At Athmuqam we heard crying and wailing across the river. Besides Maqbul Bhat Saheed, there were two more persons with us. We found that a dead body had been tied to a charpoy and put up so that the relatives of the dead person especially his sister on the other side would have a last look at her brother’s dead body. People on both sides were crying in agony. This is not an uncommon scene along the line of division. Slavery has made us helpless and destitute.
We would like to remind the rulers that power has been given to them for solving the problems of the people. When they have not been able to do anything about the stray dogs in cities and towns what can they do about solving the problems of human beings.
We would say that in the first instance India and Pakistan should open all the borders of the state. This will reduce the anger simmering in the hearts of the people and mark the beginning of resolving the problems of people.
This article was published in daily 'Greater Kashmir' on 5th June 2012.