Monday, May 25, 2009

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

A halpless senior citizen walks into the OPD with a classical complaint of aches and pains all over.She has apparently been to the local ojha and has been told that a thief has entered her spine and needs to be chased out.How? I asked.She says it can be done in two ways-by kicking the back-side or by blowing some mantras into the spine-I thought the ojha sure had a sense of humour.
In the mean-time there is a silent revolution going on through the net,signature campaigns,etc to support Dr Binayak Sen’s cause.There are two sides to every story –so I understand, from the discussions from different forums,write-ups and opinions.I fully sympathise with Dr.Sen in the matter .I don’t agree with the naxal philosophy of declaring war against the state.I find it painful that in this day and age in India- voices of reason ,of concern ,voices that support the cause of the weak can be clamped down by state machinaries.Who is Dr.Binayak Sen ?What is his case?The government of India owes it’s citizens an explanation.
Going back to the issue of naxalism in Palaumu,I am told that the philosophy and this way of life became prevalent here in and around 1998.That is as recent as 10 years back.Why was this philosophy adopted by the people here so easily.You don’t have to be a genious to figure that out.Fifty years after independence and the state of Jharkhand which is supposed to be a rich state in terms of minerals and resources has been exploited to the hilt.
The villages here are primitive to say the least.It’s not fair to blame the naxallites alone for non-development of the area-what was the issue 10 years ago??Corruption,non-accountabilty,….There is a fall-out for every wrong –someone has to pay the price for it,sooner or later-we cannot wish the problem away-it will hit us in the face sometime .
It would be wrong on my part if I failed to mention I have been seeing glimmer of hope in the public sector in the recent past.
The government has been talking about NREGA and the loan waiver-I am referring to the NRHM ,since it is more in line with my area.The facilities are all there for people with the right intent.It gives me hope to see the sahiyas take up the cause of the villagers ,village health committees make their own health plans-this is happening in Satbarwa block of Palaumu.It wouldn’t have happened though.
When the whole project came through from the government ,the responsibility was hastily put through to an NGO who did a slip-shod job and had finished it in paper.
ARPAN project of Nav-jivan Hospital (EHA)started a parallel RCH project in the area funded by SIMAVI.The intent was to work with the government to strenghthen the NRHM project but the government had their own agenda and the responsibilities had been allocated to other NGOs.Frequenting the corridors of power in Ranchi to understand the whole process proved futile as we visited rows and rows of impotent bueurocrats who looked on helplessly apparently nailing the blame on the uncertain politics and the ministers concerned.
We didn’t meet the ministers .
ARPAN started from the scratch.The first step was to dig out the list of village health comittees and sahiyas the government had on paper.This done the next step was to inform the members.Needless to say that most of them had no idea about it or as to what VHC’s roles were.Sahiyas were slightly better informed .
The VHCs were next educated about their roles and responsibility.ARPAN got involved in helping the VHCs make a village health plan.’The village health plan made applications’ were put forward to the appropriate government departments.Another positive sign in all this was the fact that the government is acknowledging the role of NJH which gives me hope that their intent is right.My staffs inform me that there is a definite movement happening from the government’s side in spurts.What worries me is the culture of corruption which is so prevalent in the government hierarchy.
In the meantime the concept of sahiyas have picked up in a big way in the villages.If there is a sustained support given to the village functionaries ,if they are empowered and if the people involved can somehow inculcate a culture of accountability-I forsee the winds of change blow through these villages.
I take hope in the hope I see in the eyes of our field workers who sweat it out day and night to make that iota of difference even while they run with the aims and objectives of the project we run.I also take hope in the fact that the line they take now is not ‘nothing happens’ but ‘something is happening’.
Praise the lord!We serve Him- who takes up the cause of the weak..

Friday, May 22, 2009

The flavour of the season!

The lights in Palamu have been hijacked-I literally mean that.I believe a group of MCC cadres actually walked up to the power house from where our lights are supplied and have locked it .They have demanded guns AK-47 in place of electricity.The best part is that the only places where the power is supplied from the point is, our hospital and the town of Satbarwa.
So the nights are literally spent walking around like a zombie in the campus looking for a drift of stray gale -or sleeping under the stars in the stone benches chatting with Sona Devi about the mosquitoes,the heat,all in dehati-which I love the sound of.
Wow!even as I write this I can hear the skies tear apart allowing a torrent of Norwesters through.Come the baisakhi,there is a rush for green mangoes all over the campus.You find them in all sizes,the mangoes and the people who run for them.They make a cool drink to beat the heat with it and it is just so delicious.The green mangoes have to be roasted over the firewood to get the right flavour after which the crushed pulp is run through the mixer with ice,water ,a bit of salt and sugar to taste-a sprigg of mint.It sure does beat the heat and tastes heavenly.
Every one around mentions the smell of the wet earth around the place.It is heady and gets to you.It must be the rains after a spell of intense heat that gets your senses alive!and I thought 'mitti ka khusboo' was just another bollywood dialogue.

The flavour of the season in these parts is definately the heat,the green mangoes,the naxallites ,the prime-minister and not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A heart-beat away

A badly mucked up case of ruptured uterus came in from Chattarpur.The lady was in serious distress, the foetal product seemed to be in the abdominal cavity.There was no foetal heart sound.An emergency call was given for anaesthesia and the case posted.On opening the abdomen there was blood all over ,the placenta was outside the ruptured uterus and the baby,still and lifeless -half in and half out but within the gestational-sac.I extracted the baby,no breathing,no heart-beat but suddenly it coughed.The anaesthetist and the floor nurse pounced on the baby and with vigourous resuscitation the baby was soon pink and breathing on it’s own.It was a strange experience,but for the grace of God and the thin membrane which had protected the baby he would have been just another statistic .He was the first male offspring after two female children-they had apparently been to the local dai,who had done everything from a massage to injecting pitrocin to speed up the delivary and ensure the complication.
We had prepared the bystander for the worse ,we had believed the inevitable but the lord in his sovereignity had other plans .
Simultaneusly a badly beaten up man was brought to the emergency.He was the assistant to the driver who drove the daily van from Satbarwa to the adjacent villages.On his way back from delivering the children to school he had over-loaded his van as usual and had had an accident.One person had a spot death and all the others were injured,the driver apparently ran away.A whole village had congregated and had dragged this person to the road-side and had beaten him black and blue and burnt down the vehicle.No bones were broken but he was badly bruised and in a state of shock.
Behind him walked in the state congress general secretary and the superintendent of police-(election time-no surprise!)the boy recovered pretty well and looked as good as new the next morning.He had had a bad day but the predominant thought was how fortunate he had been,(not for being beaten up) but for what could have been but did not.
These were two incidences in a single morning reminding us just how fragile human lives really are!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Slice of Creation

The quintessential dawn,
Tip-toeing past the dark of the night,
Unvealing ,reverent,
eternal moment
waiting and watching
the genteel of the creation
enjoy the morn.
Resting –
Is this Eden?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The crux of the matter

I have been fascinated by the naxal movement due to the sheer drama that is enacted in and around Palaumu often-times.Initially when I started working in Palaumu,every body attributed everything to the naxals.It was ‘Dr Jee ,don’t venture out so early in the morning(walks),it’s dangerous out-side.Do not go to the villages,you never know when they will attack-don’t go for field visits…it used to go on and on….I shared it with the founder missionary and he laughed it off-there are no naxals around.He had worked in that area in the sixties and had been involved with the villages around-attending weddings,going hunting,fishing,sitting on the village porch talking to the villagers in the evenings ….When had the change come?Now when I say I work in Palumu,people think we walk around with guns.
As you tend to settle down, it all becomes a part of your life and you tend to live the gap between the fear and the event.
The naxal movement was started on certain principles but over the years,the principles have corroded and there are compromises gallore.Now when I see the word naxal I sense the word ‘poor’.The movement has caused a havoc in the district.No good roads,no electricity,no bridges ,people living in judgement literally.Working in the area,I feel watched all the time-by who?God knows.
It was started for social justice and the people who join in do so for the same.
For a poor man,if he joins the movement, his children’s education,his family’s health even their enemies are taken care of,I hear..What about the government?Corruption everywhere not only kills the morals and the faith of the people it also kills the soul-if there were no corruption and the tax money really filtered down to the grass-roots
,if the basic needs of the people were met in a fair manner would there be a need for a parallel system promising social justice?
I don’t know whether the way I look at things have become jaded ,I see a lot less corruption at lower levels(Bengal ofcourse is an exception or may even be a contradiction) and a lot more at the level of governance. Everyday people making ends meet have become millionaires as soon as they have come into office through election..We hear of vague CBI cases off and on,This is especially true at the state level –what is the catch here?There is a hearing and then there is another hearing and they will keep hearing ‘to their graves’.
This sort of rottenness is become a done thing in the government corridors-people who aren’t part of it are called fools .This has terrible implications in every which ways and yet it is hard to believe that accountability at all levels will be a way of life here soon.
The power mongers lose credibility,there are scattered signs of it every where now(case in point ,shoe-throwing episodes)-there will be uprisings-there will be movements ,let’s keep our fingers crossed and pray that should it happen,it should in the mainstream and not create some more faction groups.
Lord have mercy on my country and it’s people!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I sit in the out-patient on a light Wednesday afternoon and the patients attribute the thin attendance to the ‘lagan’ .Lagan is the season of wedding in the area.All the private vehicles are booked ,if not for the wedding then certainly for the elections and we also have the added excitement of the anti-establishment groups trying to make their presence felt in the area.

Elections,are an occasion in the family.We have the whole clan descending on the family bastion Mangan to caste their ballot.Every member with a mind of their own,even the spouses are uninformed as to which button their partner has pressed behind the curtain.However,it is an occasion to celebrate so there are hosts of dinners in different houses everyday for the week.It’s one of the two regular occasions when the family gets together. My brother,a seismologist had a very weird answer for the candidate who came to our house to ask for vote.He told the person very seriously that he would vote for whichever party his mother would ask him to vote for.He meant it.Knowing my brother ,that does not speak too well about the election process or the hyped results.He is an idealist ,I hope not turned cynic.As compared to that, Tumbagara is really uncomplicated.The chaiwala ,Raju will loudly declare his loyalty to a particular party and so will all the staffs.

I got talking to one particular gentleman from Bihar.,a rustic but a little different from the usual lot.I asked him what party he would cast his vote for?Without batting his eye-lid he said congress-I decided to probe a little further and the flood-gates opened.he was actually voting for Nitish’s party.Apparently,they had fielded a handicapped person from his region.Sharad Yadav had ,under Nitish’s advice, given the first timer the ticket The next line he worded was what interested me.He said all the harijans and the tribals would definitely vote for the congress –they were an adamant lot!This gave me a food for thought.Why congress?If I had gone out to vote ,which I did not because my name is in the voter’s list 2000 kms away and I am not Amir Khan that I can fly back the kms to dirty my fore-finger(just kidding)-if I had I would have voted for Manmohan Singh because I think he hasn’t compromised the way the other national party has.I still ask why congress?Especially when it comes to the marginalsed,why the general idea?.The legacy has to be the magic formula because otherwise the party is studded with well-meaning elites-I find something else more intriguing- how can that party full of intelligent,conscious(not dead),well-educated individuals so haplessly toe the line of one family of now average individuals-Rahul?....Priyanka?.......Sonia???.....even Rajiv…..with his sauveness , was another cup-cake altogether,Indira also put up and won her own fights.

Coming back to the OPD ,during my regular rounds of advices I ask a lady to drink milk daily for her bones.She promptly responds ‘ no milk is available’ .This is the second person this week who has given me the same rebuttal,so I generally snoop further.They tell me it’s a wedding season so all the available milk is taken,they tell me it’s the heat which is to blame-‘Loo’,to be exact, the cows are dehydrated so they hardly give much milk and the third reason they give is that there is no grass in the jungle.Am I really job-less or is it just me who finds these small exchanges fascinating.

Even as I write this, there is a small newsline in the CNN-IBN ?It says the Dy.DC,SP and the DIG Palamu have been transferred out of Palamu in lieu of the fake Latehar encounter case where eight villagers were killed.Although ,I am happy that the authorities have noted and addressed the issue-I wondered at the nature of the punishment.I am sure the officers concerned must be thanking their stars that they are out of Palamu but who is to blame really?The heads of the officers may role on moral grounds but…..I don’t know.

I was listening in to the interview that Prabhu Chawla was conducting with Narendra Modi, (I think Prabhu Chawla likes BJP guys-his eyes were gleaming as he prodded Modi).Modi was trying to dodge awkward questions –he almost looked like Amitabh Bacchan with the same patronizing expression ‘Vijay’ dons each time he has to deliver a dialogue or a wise-crack till Prabhu asked him that awkward question.Point to be noted ,Prabhu fumbled on the question and Modi just gave Prabhu a cold,cold stare…..and no response.

The question was -do you have any reason to repent about?The obvious pointer being ‘the carnage in Godhra’.He just stared coldly at Prabhu for a full minute and the interview was over.I have never seen an interview of that kind –was it staged?was it what actually happened ,if so, it looked eerie.My first thought was I wish I could laser through Modi’s mind and read it.

Another character that has really caught my fancy is that of Teesta Setalvad-her name has been going around for sometime now but I had never had the opppurtunity to put a face to the name.She was on TV.I wouldn’t like to have her for my enemy.She sounded dogmatic,absolutely clear but most of all I really did admire the sort of commitment it might require of her to get involved with people who are in such dire straits-it must be costly ,pretty costly…..