A massive earthquake reportedly hit Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, killing an estimated 216 people. The casualties were revised to 248 later as fresh reports arrived.The tremors shook Mexico City and the neighbouring states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos. Scores of people were killed and left trapped beneath buildings, including a school that collapsed in the capital city.
On June 21, an Indian Express report read “In shocking case, brother carries severely injured sister after Hardoi hospital refuses to provide ambulance”. Reportedly, the brother was forced to carry his burnt sister after the hospital where the patient received preliminary treatment denied stretcher and an ambulance service.
Such indifferent attitudes of medical authorities does not seem to have surfaced for the first time. There have been multiple incidences in the recent past that have put a question mark upon the credibility of medical emergency services in the country. Just weeks ago, a man in Uttar Pradesh’s Kaushambi had to cycle 10 kilometres with his niece’s dead body after being denied free ambulance service. In other instances in September and August last year, a man was forced to walk 6 km with his daughter’s body in Odisha. In Kanpur a 12-year-old died on his father’s shoulder as he ran from one doctor to another. A simple Google search will provide hundreds of similar answers.
Though each case is unique in a way, a common underlying thread amongst all is the apathy and sheer callousness of the medical authorities involved.
Cases of the recent past have shown that ambulance facilities have been denied for the lack of financial ability of the patient’s family to meet the expenses. Such is the reality even after many states introduced free medical services for the poor. The largest number of such cases have been reported from the state of Uttar Pradesh where former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had introduced free ambulance services in 2012.
Though many private hospitals tend to keep a reserve of money for the economically weaker section under such crisis, these funds barely seem to be out of their coffers when the need arises.
And the undefined structures of medical law in the country offers an easy escape from the grave crimes which are committed in this field. The basic dignity supposed to be provided to the dead which is also a responsibility of the medical authorities is largely ignored and goes unnoticed by the legal authorities. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court gave newer interpretations of Article 21 ‘Right to Life’ of the Indian Constitution to include the ‘dead’ in a limited sense and to treat the body with respect and dignity. Even with such constitutional parameters in place, regular reports of poor medical services only projects the abysmal state of medical emergency services and the apathy towards the poor.
Widespread malnutrition in Maharashtra recently came into spotlight with the deaths of 13 children in the last two months in the tribal district of Palghar, which is located less than 100 km from Mumbai. At time when Palghar district is in the fore with repeated child malnutrition deaths, the wider picture is grim. According to data from the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the state is going through wider crises, especially in the tribal belt. In the single month of August, 1,588 deaths of children below the age of five years were reported across the state due to malnutrition.
As many as 520 deaths of children below the age of six were reported in the tribal belt of Palghar between April and August this year. The district showed 80 percent increase in the death rate compared to last year’s 289 deaths. The highest number of child deaths in same time span was reported in Amravati. Amravati reported 88 deaths of children below the age of six. Gadchiroli reported 70 child deaths, Nashik reported 72 deaths and Palghar reported 47.
The crisis has been mainly seen in the tribal region of the state. From 27,432 cases reported last year, in the same five month span till August, 30,128 children below five were reported severely underweight this year, showing considerable increase in the cases of underweight children.
Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, malnutrition is a huge problem in India. Four out of 10 stunted (symptom of malnutrition) children globally are Indian. Nandurbar (47.6%) and Yavatmal (47.4%) districts of Maharashtra, have a higher rate of stunted children than war-torn Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. According to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF Almost half of children younger than five years – or about 54 million children – are stunted in India.
According to activists funding cuts for welfare schemes in the National Rural Health Mission are the main cause of these deaths. “These children died because central government funding for welfare schemes was cut, and the state did not direct adequate funds for its scheme,” said Vivek Pandit, founder of Shramjivi Sanghatana, which works with vulnerable people in Maharashtra. Plaghar is a poor district and is hugely dependent on Government schemes. The Modi Government slashed funding for a scheme that gives millions of poor children free food, pumping that money into building more roads, ports and infrastructure in his first full-year budget last year.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the government of Maharashtra asking for a detailed report on the deaths within four weeks. State Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde visited the affected villages in Palghar and also pledged to implement a child welfare scheme.
The Bombay high court expressed its concern over the increasing amount of deaths caused by malnutrition, as per figures provided to the court in the last one year around 17,000 children died in different parts of Maharashtra which led the HC to question the state on this matter. A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Swapna Joshi said, “This is a serious matter and the government should take immediate steps to address this problem.”
The court has asked the Government to take immediate steps to help malnourished children and their mothers. The court also asked the government to depute gynecologists and pediatricians the tribal areas and also increase their remuneration.
The problem of Malnutrition in Maharashtra is on a rise and the situation seems grim, thus remedial steps against malnutrition are urgently required in Maharashtra. Though the government claims in taking steps regarding malnutrition children’s deaths due to starvation is still on the rise.
The deadly 2015 stampede which lead to the death of thousands of Hajj pilgrims has by far been the world’s largest Islamic gathering on record. In the hopes to avoid another such situation coming September, the officials have decided to issue electronic bracelets to the millions of pilgrims expected to visit the holy sites at Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The bracelets are expected to be two centimetres wide, water-resistant and are GPS-linked consisting of personal information and medical records that the Saudi officials and security forces could easily access via smart phones. Different colour bracelets would be issued to people from different countries, pilgrims from Arab countries will be issued green coloured bracelets, mauve coloured for African pilgrims and so on. Personal information for each pilgrim will include their passport numbers and addresses. Moreover, 1,000 new surveillance cameras have been installed to keep a check on the pilgrims as they walk along the pilgrimage routes and the crowd inside holy sites, reports BBC news.
According to Al Arabiya News, the bracelets are not for the sole purpose of identification but it also provides guidance with prayer timings, pilgrimage steps guidance, language help for the non-Arabic speakers and a compass to show pilgrims which direction to face while praying.