Monday, May 17, 2010

an antenatal clinic

the monthly antenatal clinic at semariya is always a busy one.

today it is light due to the large number of weddings taking place, with 58 women attending. tiharin bai, the health worker at karhikachar calls up to say there are 12 women waiting there: the bus has not come today as it has been leased out to a wedding party. we send our jeep to fetch them.

it is baking hot in the clinic, well over the 46 deg C that bilaspur and its environs has been maintaining the past few days. it is painful putting the hot earpieces of the stethoscope into my ears each time to examine a woman, and i keep drinking gulps of warm water to fight the heat and thirst.

but that is a minor discomfort. most of the women who attend the clinic today have not gained any weight in the past month, and some have lost weight. all of them have been working in this hot sun under the NREGS. i tell them they need to rest, and not do hard physical labour. they need the money, they say, and cannot remain at home.

the NREGS can guarantee employment, but not their health.

difficult choices.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

hydrilla and frog

a young medical student who spent ten days at our campus in Ganiyari earlier this month took some beautiful photographs.

this one of a resident frog keeping cool in one of the ponds on campus, is my favourite.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


a sudden dust storm and drizzle has brought welcome relief from the searing heat here at bamhni in the achanakmar sanctuary. it also covered everything in the clinic with dust, and brought a man who had a split scalp when the branch of a tree fell on his head. and another man with a split scalp whose drunken father beat him unconscious with a bamboo pole when he challenged his drinking. fearing his son was dead, the man ran off into the forest and is missing as of now.

i am here again for the monthly health workers' meeting. it is past 8 at night and we are working by the dim light of two solar powered lamps: the battery is running down, since i have used up much of it for the lamp in the clinic to stitch up the scalps of the two men.

the health workers say they have seen few patients this month as they were also busy working in the NREGS programme. munni suddenly protests: "i go everyday for the work, but my name is not put on the muster rolls since i am a widow. i am told that i get a widow's pension of rs 200 a month, so i am not eligible for work under this scheme. can anyone survive on this money? the sarpanch has told me that these are the instructions of the lady officer who came for a public meeting last week. all the widows in all the villages in this area are now being told they cannot work in this scheme. i still go everyday and fight to work".

another says,"my parents are over 60 and fit and are willing to work, but they are also now being told that since they are eligible for old age pension of rs 300 pm, they will not be given work under the rozgaar guarantee programme." why cant they get work?"

"younger women abandoned by their husbands who get a pension of rs.200 too are not eligible."

"why dont they hold back the pension for the three months that the rozgar guarantee work is going on? then we can work and earn more."

several of them sign a petition to the CEO of the block, asking to be allowed to work (that is the letter that is scanned and posted at the start of this note).

the talk veers to payment received: some have received no payment for seven months of work - two months this year, five months of last year. many have received cheques, but the post-office in surhi shuts its counters when many of them go together to deposit and withdraw the money as it is too much work. some are waiting to deposit their cheques for over a month: "the postmaster even refused to come from his house to the post-office when he saw us."
they dont have much choice, as there are designated days for each village in the panchayat to collect their money from the post-office.
in bamhni there is a rozgaar sahayak who goes to surhi and deposits their cheques and collects their money, apparently so far not asking for a cut. other villages don't seem to have this person in place.

how much do they get? "we were told it was rs. 102 per person per day, but we get only rs 100 per day, a cheque of rs.1200 for two weeks of work. so where are the rs 24 going?" i dont know what the current rate is, and i cannot answer.

i also have no answers for abandoned women, widows and older citizens not being allowed to work. i have to find out. anyone knows anything about this?