Thursday, December 17, 2009
a team from calcutta is busy conducting an anthropological survey of the villages - including an anthropometric survey of children below five. apparently to see what happens to their nutritional status once they are resettled. does it matter? can a severely malnourished child get more malnourished? and what will happen if the child does worsen? - the government will think of some scheme for them, was the answer.
there has been no notice given in writing. nothing to say where each village will be settled, what facilities they will get, what compensation, nothing. it has so far only been by word of mouth, and petty officials scaring the people in the forest. many have not received their pattas under the new forest bill yet, so will not be eligible for much compensation in a court of law.
communities inside the forest are mixed: tribals and non-tribals. however, they have been told the rehabilitation package is only for the tribals and not for others. where will the others go? the yadavs, for example, who tend to the cattle?
an RTI application was filed by one of the villagers last week, asking for information about the proposed displacement. last weekend there was also a meeting of people from 18 villages in the forest, resolving not to move till they were given something in writing; till they were assured of a decent life elsewhere. we have lived in harmony with the forest, they say, we should be left here. a fledgling group is born, trying to take tentative steps to stand up against "authority" as represented by the forest department and other government officials. and the innate diffidence has to be overcome.
two days after the meeting, the sanctuary in charge visited the village in the evening: well after dark, to meet the person who had filed the RTI application. he asked why it had been filed, why a meeting was held the previous weekend, what the applicant wanted. assurances were given that all attempts would be made to ensure that written information would be given. but the village and the person who filed the application are a bit intimidated: they have not been visited by an official before for any reason.
the communities here are a very worried lot. what will happen to us, they ask? where will our cattle graze, where will we find grass to make our brooms, where will our children go to school?
many unanswered questions.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
here he is - Bos frontalis, the indian bison, or gaur. males weigh from 750 to 1000 kgs and grow upto 2 metres tall. adult males and females appear to wear white stockings. older males have a ridge on the back. they are often seen in herds.
i would not want to be kicked around or gored by one.
my post of September 5th showed Phaguni Dai, a TBA, learning how to resuscitate a newborn baby at our forest clinic at bamhni inside the achanakmaar sanctuary. here she is this week, admitted at our base hospital at ganiyari.
last week she was chasing a monkey from her vegetable patch in the forest, when she disturbed a bison which then attacked, gored her and probably kicked her a bit. she fell, which was lucky for her, as the bison charged to gore her again but missed her and took the bark off a nearby tree. had she still been standing, she may not have lived.
she has a fractured wrist, a huge flesh wound in the abdomen, injuries to the chest, and a collection of blood in her right knee. she is in pain, but glad her injuries were not worse. being kicked and gored by an animal weighing several hundred kilos can kill easily.
the forest department will foot the bill for her treatment, as per the rules. we wish her a speedy recovery, and hope she will be back to delivering babies again soon.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
suddenly last week we realised that we were out of stock of benzathine penicillin (as the long acting penicillin is called), and could not get any in bilaspur town. nor in raipur.
as i happened to be travelling in hyderabad, i was asked to purchase 1000 vials from there if i could. my only concern was whether or not i could carry the weight back in my suitcase. i set out to the nearest drugstore and found that it was not available: it is not available in the market, i was told.
not quite believing him, i asked in another shop, and another, and another : with the same response. i looked up the directory and contacted two of the largest drug stores in the city - one said they had enough vials for me. i went there the next morning, only to find that they had no stocks - they thought i needed four or five vials.
i returned via nagpur yesterday and my cousin drove me around several large drug stores, with the same results: no benzathine penicillin is available in the market. one shop had seven vials, and refused to take an order with an advance since they could not assure me when the order could be met.
meanwhile our organization contacted LOCOST in baroda who located 500 vials in ahmedabad, which are being mailed to us.
i wonder if anyone else is facing the same shortage? what is happening to all the patients with rheumatic heart disease - of whom there must be several millions in india? why has this suddenly happened? why is this cheap and life-saving drug not available easily? any answers, anyone?
and if anyone can locate about 1000 vials of the medicine (brand names: longacillin, penidure LA12), please write in.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
this little girl, 18 months old, looked warily at us from the security of her swing in the "phulwari' or creche in daganiya village.
jan swasthya sahyog runs 77 such creches where 900 children 6 months to 3 years old are looked after during the day by one or more of the village women, while the parents are out at work. each woman looks after ten children. these creches are in great demand whenever NREGA work is available, and also now during the harvesting season. the children are provided food thrice during their 8 hour stay in the creche: khitchdi and sattu, with oil, as well as an egg twice a week. this is an attempt to prevent and treat malnutrition in this very vulnerable group of children. water is disinfected by U-V light, and iron supplements are also provided. each creche has one or more mosquito nets too for use when the children sleep. toys are also available. the village health worker takes care of any minor illnesses the children may have.
we are looking for funds to help us run these creches: food, and wages for the worker, as well as the logistics of supplies and supervision cost us about rs.10 per child per day. anyone willing to contribute is welcome. anyone wanting to know more may please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask me.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
the boy in the tuesday clinic who we thought had a brain tumour turned out to have a degenerative brain disease. he will worsen progressively and not survive very long. there is not much that can be done for him.
the NREGS wages, i am sorry to say, have still not been paid. the villagers now have to open post office accounts into which the payment cheques will be deposited. apparently this is to circumvent the corruption in direct cash payment of the wages. but many of the men have already migrated so are not available to open their accounts. meanwhile people here continue to eat more poorly than before.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
meanwhile, more malaria patients later came a young woman who seemed at first to be hysterical, shying away from anyone touching her. but i found she had an acute abdomen - an emergency. the junior doctor who had accompanied me to bamhni was anxious about getting back and handling these emergencies himself, so i walked to the bend in the cc (cement concrete) road in the village - the only place where one can get a mobile network signal if the wind is right, and called raman, the surgeon at ganiyari to inform him about the patients i was sending back. he assured me that he would wait, however long it took.
back to the clinic, started antibiotics for the woman with the surgical emergency, and sent her and the patient with empyema to our base clinic, which is an hour and a half away by road from bamhni. i learnt yesterday that he was taken straight to the OT and had a litre and a half of pus removed from his pleural cavity. when i saw him last evening after returning from bamhni, he was much better. the woman had an appendicular abscess and had been operated on, and was smiling - no longer in pain, no longer seemingly hysterical. my colleague had been in the hospital till after 10 pm the previous night, attending to them.
meanwhile i kept behind at bamhni a 12 year old boy weighing 27 kg who i suspected had tuberculosis, and perhaps something more serious. also at the clinic that night was a pregnant woman with malaria and a child with malaria who was severely anaemic, both under observation to see that they did not worsen.
4 am yesterday morning i was woken up: a 10 year old girl from a hostel in jakadbandha was complaining of chest pain for a few hours. turned out it was another pneumonia. we started her on antibiotics, kept her at the centre, and sent the warden back to inform her parents who live in a remote village. i huddled back into my sleeping bag after seeing her but could not get back to sleep due to the cold. i could hear her brassy cough in the hall next door where she was sleeping.
both the children - the one with TB and the child with pneumonia were sent to ganiyari the next morning and are admitted there now. the patients with malaria were better and went home.
the dai training went on too, meanwhile.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
i remember too, an ANM who would not touch lower caste women, not even to give the tetanus toxoid injections necessary in pregnancy. there was of course no question of measuring their blood pressure or of doing an abdominal examination.
a group of women who had a lease on several tanks in tikamgarh and ran a successful business in fish were unable to get their anganwadi functioning. they were reluctant to talk about it, but after some weeks opened up enough to confess that the anganwadi worker belonged to the thakur family in the village. since it had not rained the past two years, and the two handpumps in the village were dry, the only source of water for the group (lower caste women) was the thakur's pump that was put on each morning to water his fields. if we protest, even this source of water will be denied to us, they said. also, they would beat up our men, and maybe even kill them.
the anganwadi remained closed, the rations sold or consumed by someone else.
morena and bhind were different: the deep ravines and the stark landscape disquieting. in bhind, no upper caste man worth his name will go around without his rifle. it is a persuasive weapon for all purposes including once for insisting that i attend immediately to see a child who had been brought to me. i was in a school building setting up a temporary centre to manage an outbreak of cholera, and surrounded by many patients, but i left everything and went to attend to the child, who it turned out, was severely dehydrated.
the ravines provide a safe hideout for the various gangs of dacoits who roam freely between uttar pradesh and madhya pradesh. one notable one is the gadariya gang: he being known for his respect for women and for not touching them. one of the reasons, i am told, that he is tolerated in the area by the locals.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
my friend and colleague biswaroop sent me this mail this evening. i hope you enjoy reading it as much as i did. happy vijay dashami, everyone.
As far as Bongs (Bengalis) are concerned, there are only three kinds of people on earth:
Bongs: They inhabit the Middle Kingdom and are the only people who really matter. We probashi Bongs or expatriate Bongs are cousins thrice removed, acknowledged only when we make it good in Bollywood.
Non-Bongs: All other people who don’t matter. We cannot afford to say it in as many words, now that we have fallen on such hard times having to queue up for all the jobs before the non-Bongs).
Hon-Bongs (a term coined by Jug Suraiya, an eminent journalist and humourist and an hon-bong himself) or honorary Bongs: They are a small breed of non-Bongs, who have lived in Bengal for a long time and love to eat rashogolla and mishti doi. They may or may not speak Bengali; that does not matter as long as they love (or profess to love) rashogolla and mishti doi. Spouses, domestic partners, or good friends of Bongs are also welcome to this privileged club as long as they love rashogolla and mishti doi. So much the better if the jamaai or bou-ma happens to be an Ivy League-academic or a Nigerian footballer). The others are not so welcome even if they love rashogolla and mishti doi.
One thing about Bongs that baffles non-Bongs is the mammoth enthusiasm about Durga Pujo that never translates into communal riots. Well, to begin with, the legend of Durga is such a bizarre, rich and heady mix of colourful mythology, high theology, and superb iconography (something like Jesus, the angels, Santa Claus, and the reindeers rolled into one) that it would be difficult for anyone to misappropriate it to suit narrow ends. Just imagine a Dravidian mother goddess elevated to the high table of the Aryan pantheon and showered with armaments by Aryan deities such as Agni and Brahma, just to make her kill a Dravidian asura in a masterly stroke of realpolitik. And think of the ultimate image makeover: the transformation of a fierce demon-slayer into a demure Bengali girl, who visits her parents on earth for four days every year with the four kids in tow. Portraying George Bush as Mother Teresa can only come a distant second. If you want to turn this spectacle into a mascot for mischief, where could you possibly start?
Perhaps it also helps that her devotees in Bengal are quite an irreverent lot themselves. Lots of Bongs these days take their faith lightly without belittling it and tend to be religious without being officious about religion. Every year, there are spoofs on Durga and her family in popular magazines and weekend supplements of major newspapers around the time of Durga Pujo. Thank goodness that we have not had champions of the faith storming the office of the Ananda Bazar Patrika to protect the honour of our gods, at least not quite yet. With luminaries like Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Mamata Banerjee to look up to, this is one of the rare things that can still make you happy about life in Bengal. Vive le difference!
Unfortunately these satires are always in Bengali and that makes it a bit of a bother trying to share the fun with the non-Bongs and the hon-Bongs. This year, after ages, I have found something in a similar vein in English in the Graphiti section of the Telegraph of Calcutta. The author, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, a well-loved author, humorist, and teacher of comparative literature, needs no introduction to Bong readers. Those who don’t read Bengali might know her better as Amartya Sen’s first wife. I am attaching JPEG images of the five pages for you enjoyment in lieu of rashogollas for Bijaya Dashami. So, go ahead and join in the fun.
With shubhechchha, kola-kuli, pronaam and heartiest wishes for a wonderful year ahead, wherever you are,
Biswaroop, Madhuri, Mitti and Kabir
Monday, September 14, 2009
i asked him to extend his arm so that i could measure his blood pressure again, and noticed that his hands were trembling. i asked about his alcohol consumption and he said he did drink occasionally, but not in the past month at least. i asked then why his hands were trembling and he said he had had it for the past five days. the reason? he had not been eating enough. since the previous day, all he had had to eat was one single roti: he could not afford any more.
as he said this, he turned away, frowning, and sat silently. i did not know what to say to him either.
i sent him for some investigations, and also gave him two free meal coupons to have lunch at the canteen we run at ganiyari. the free meals are courtesy some well wishers of jan swasthya sahyog.
he has been started on medication for his hypertension, and i still feel apologetic that his bloodshot eyes and trembling hands had made me wonder if he had been on a binge the night before, when the reality is so very different.
i think about this patient who travelled so far, saving on food in order to be able to afford the journey to ganiyari, after not having had enough to eat for some days before that. and i wonder when he will be able to afford two meals a day again. and whether he will be able to afford to return to continue his medication....chronic hunger is a reality for so many of our country's citizens
there are many premlals we see here.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
and the first patient, a child, brought with abnormal behaviour for a month, when faith healing did not work. i brought him back with me to ganiyari and he is being investigated for the cause, having been started on medication to control the seizures.
patients come to the bamhni clinic from about 50 villages around, many crossing over from neighbouring madhya pradesh, walking a day or more to reach a nearby village where they stay with a relative to attend this clinic which runs on tuesdays. enterprising jeep drivers sometimes run chartered trips from a large village surhi about 10 km away, where patients can reach by bus. most come with serious problems, and the dearth of adequate medical care at an affordable price in this rural area on the border of chhattisgarh and madhya pradesh, is obvious.
this was one tuesday clinic inside a remote forest area, most tuesdays the clinic is busier and sicker than this one.
yet our Government seems to feel that people in rural areas have small problems that can be dealt with by badly trained health workers, or even a village level woman with minimal training, with no supervision or continuing support. access to secondary and tertiary level care - even primary care - is a dream for most of the population that resides outside large towns or cities.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Because there is no paddy in it to pound.
Why is there no paddy in it?
Because I did not harvest any.
Why did you not harvest any?
Because I did not sow any.
Why did you not sow any paddy?
Because I did not till my field.
Why did you not till your field?
Because the frogs did not sing.
Why did the frogs not sing?
Because it did not rain........"
we have worked hard, and we needed the money, they said, and we did not get it in time. now the rains are delayed, and the fields have dried up. with debts mounting, our menfolk have started migrating. to bilaspur, to bhopal, do delhi.
phulsita's husband and son-in-law have migrated to faridabad where they work in a glass factory. on monday her son-in-law called her say he had got a piece of glass in one eye and could not open it and hence had not gone to work. doctors are expensive, he told her over the phone when she urged him to seek care.
how did your son-in-law, a forest dweller who has only ever done some agricultural work, end up in a glass factory, i asked. well, she replied, beggars cant be choosers.
so now she waits for news of her son-in-law's eye: has he sought care? could someone take the piece of glass out? will he be able to see normally?
who is responsible for this? his own carelessness or the doctor who charges an unaffordable fees? the employer who does not provide safety precautions to the worker? the failed monsoon? or the NREGA that did not pay wages when it should have: a weekly payment that would have helped to prevent unmanageable debt and perhaps prevented this migration?
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The Body Mass Index or BMI, is a measure of one's weight in relation to one's own height, and gives and indication of the body's muscle mass and fat stores. Normal BMIs for men and women should range between 19 and 25. A BMI less than 18.5 indicates undernutrition, or in most cases, hunger.
A BMI between 13 and 15 corresponds to 48 to 55 percent of desirable body weight for a given height and is considered as the lowest body weight that can sustain life. At this level of BMI the body fat is less than 5 percent.
It seems logical therefore, that the BMI be used as an indicator of who should receive Government subsidies for various programmes, especially those that enable a person to purchase food at an affordable price.
Dharmin Gond is one of the TBAs I work with within the Achanakmaar sanctuary. She is 38, and lives in Katami with her husband and 3 children - a son 22, a girl 16, and the youngest a boy of 14. They own less than one acre of land, which has been given to her by her parents. Her in-laws are dead, their land was submerged when the Lamni dam was built some years ago. No land compensation was provided, and she does not know if any money was given.
She is heavily in debt: having borrowed 40 kg grain for sowing: the seedlings came up and during the dry spell in August, all of them dried up. She now has nothing to sow again, and has to return 80 kg to the farmer she borrowed from, and does not know how she will manage this.
They also borrowed Rs.1500 for a wedding @ 5% interest per month. Apart from this, they borrowed Rs.3500 for a bullock at the same rate of interest. The bullock which died of a mysterious illness within a month of purchase.She struggles to keep up with the interest payments.
They do not have a BPL card, and have to purchase rice at the market rate of Rs.16 / kg, or broken rice at Rs. 14 /kg. She is not sure how much they consume per month, but buys whenever they have Rs 50 or 100. But 10- kg rice lasts a maximum of 4 -5 days. She buys about Rs. 10 worth of masur daal during festival time, which they eat for 2 days. Masur is Rs. 60 per kg in the market now.
Both her sons and husband worked in NREGA in summer, and when they were paid, Rs. 50 was deducted from each one's wages as a standard procedure. There is no work in Katami now. They have heard that there is work in Lormi, but they need voter Id proof ,which they don’t have. They now have to go to the block headquarters at Lormi or to the Surhi Panchayat office to get it.
She also runs a creche for which she earns Rs. 1000 per month, which helps her in meeting some expenses.
Dharmin says she is distracted with worry about her debts and also about her daughter's marriage: her daughter wants to study further, but discontinued after the 8th standard to help in the house.
Dharmin's BMI is 15.3. She is barely above the body weight that can sustain life.
Yet according to our Government, she is not poor.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
most of my teachers have retired, and my batchmates are now the "senior" staff in some departments. many of the students here on campus were not born when i joined college.
it has been a haven for so many of us, and those who live here do not realise how fortunate they are to be in a place like this, a cocoon from the world outside.
indeed, it is easy here to forget that another outside world exists.
Monday, August 24, 2009
by Nissim Ezekiel, 2005
I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting -
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen,
I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company
Saturday, August 22, 2009
looking through my papers i came across this photograph. gangabada village, gajapati district, 1996, a group of saura women and children in a remote village accessible only on foot. one goes down the valley from champaghati near koinpur, then across two mountains and valleys to climb up again to gangabada. the walk down from there across the border into andhra pradesh is shorter. the sauras here eke a difficult and miserable living practising "bogodo" or shifting cultivation on the hill slopes. with shrinking forest available to them, they come back to the same patch of land at progressively shorter intervals, leaving little time for the soil to regenerate itself. this, along with the soil erosion caused by deforestation has resulted in diminishing returns on the cultivation done on the slopes. ragi and corn are the main crops grown.
malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, outbreaks of meningitis - all are common here, and health services are virtually absent. infant and maternal mortality at that time were way above national average. this part of orissa was marked out as "naxal infested" even then.
i wonder whether anything has changed there over the past 13 years. how many of the children and women in the picture are alive today?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Through the jongole I am went
On shooting Tiger I am bent
Boshtaard Tiger has eaten wife
No doubt I will avenge poor darling's life
Too much quiet, snakes and leeches
But I not fear these sons of beeches
Hearing loud noise I am jumping with start
But noise is coming from damn fool's heart
Taking care not to be fright
I am clutching rifle tight with eye to sight
Should Tiger come I will shoot and fall him down
Then like hero return to native town
Then through trees I am espying one cave
I am telling self - 'Banerjee be brave'
I am now proceeding with too much care
From far I smell this Tiger's lair
My leg shaking, sweat coming, I start pray
I think I will shoot Tiger some other day
Turning round I am going to flee
But Tiger giving bloody roar spotting Bengalee
He bounding from cave like footballer Pele
I run shouting 'Kali Ma tumi kothay gele'
Through the jongole I am running
With Tiger on my tail closer looming
I am a telling that never in life
I will risk again for my damn wife!!!!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Baigas are one of the primitive tribes of Chhattisgarh, and are extremely poor. They live in small scattered hamlets inside the forest. Kiran lives in Boirha village (inside the Achanakmaar sanctuary) which has no running water or electricity; the only tubewell in their hamlet is dry and they fetch water from a stream 2 kilometres from their village.
If she can be back at Ganiyari for her delivery, there is a good chance of saving both mother and child.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
the past two days were hot and humid, with a thin layer of clouds acting like a greenhouse and trapping the heat all around us.
the first seedlings of rice have all dried up, and now there is neither grain in the house nor a prospect of a crop.
and migration has begun - to bilaspur, to bhopal, to delhi. the men are at construction sites, or hiring themselves out for daily wages in the cities, or working as ragpickers. anything to keep the family going till who knows when?
as i left bamhni this afternoon, it started raining, though not heavily enough, nor long enough to do any good, however.