For most of us, it was just another suicide. Well, Suicides have become so common in news today that they hardly make it to the inside pages of newspapers, leave alone breaking news headlines.
But the recent incident where a couple in Assam committed suicide by jumping into the River Brahmaputra with their 10-month-old daughter on last Monday is not, by any means, an ordinary tale of lost love or broke finances. This is probably; the saddest tale of the decade for the couple was unable to afford treatment for their 10 month old daughter’s congenital heart ailment.
As reported, the couple hired a boat to visit Umananda temple located in the midst of the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati. However, before the boat could take them to the temple, the couple jumped into the water with their child. The boatman tried to save them by throwing in life jackets, but the couple did not take them. The couple left behind a bag on the boat from which the police identified the parents as Barun Kalita and Anamika Kalita and their infant child as Riyasmita Kalita. Riyasmita was suffering from congenital heart defect (CHD), which is a birth defect in the structure of the heart and blood vessels.
Assam government has a tie-up with Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya for treatment of children suffering from CHD. Every year, the state’s health department sends hundreds of CHD-affected children to the hospital, for which the entire expenses, including treatment and accommodation, are borne by the government. The scheme was launched in 2009 and so far it was being trumpeted as a big success and initiative of Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma.
In this case, it is now known that Barun had been visiting the Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) to register his daughter’s name in this scheme which is reported as free for children below 14 years of age. Barun’s family member have alleged that doctors at GMCH did not enter Riyasmita’s name in the list of CHD-affected children for heart surgery in sophisticated hospitals outside the state, citing that Barun did not have a BPL card. This was indeed strange, as No BPL card is required to enroll the name of a CHD-affected child in the list for free surgery at Narayana Hrudayalaya. Barun, a resident of Haribhanga village in Nalbari district, who worked in a furniture shop in the same village was unable to afford treatment worth lakhs of rupees in private hospitals and being depressed by the dark future of his only daughter had committed suicide.
The fact is that a vast majority of the children being treated under this scheme is alleged to have been either relatives or family members of Himanta Biswa Sharma’s close associates or people from his constituency who are his vote banks. The scheme is otherwise not much helpful for people from other parts of the state.
Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma has tried, by all means, to showcase that he has succeeded in leading the health department of Assam by his self-styled propaganda. He has indeed been able to fool quite a huge section of the public by showcasing the centre funded 108 services and some modernization of hospitals as his own merit. In reality, Assam is still way behind most of the other states of India in the health sector. The infant mortality rate (IMR) of 61 deaths per 1000 birth in Assam is much higher than the national average of 50. Cholera, Anaemia, Dengue are widespread in the state. Worm infection, Skin Problems, respiratory issues are prevalent in more than 60% of the population. Would anyone forgive and forget the same health department for the fact that HIV contaminated blood is transfused to patients or that it is difficult to find blood when needed in Guwahati itself (leave alone other parts of the state). Even in recent days when the epidemic of Dengue broke out in Guwahati and other parts of the state, the emergency lab of Guwahati Medical College itself was taking an average of 24 hours to give reports of blood test done on patients. Is it acceptable, in today’s world, to have a blood report so delayed that can affect a critical status of life and death?
In reality, Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma is far away from bringing efficiency into his departments or health sector. His only win is the Satellite Media power which is used covertly to keep his brand image. With close association of encounter specialist IGP G P Singh and his second-in-command Ranjan Bhuyan, Himanta Biswa Sharma is is taking shape more as a goon or mafia rather than a people’s person.
(More of this would be continued)