Coma after death

Child victims of a frayed medical service and a government programme gone wrong raise a mute question

Published: Saturday 15 December 2001

If it was Lucknow which mourned its dead children a few weeks ago, it is Guwahati which is a mute witness to its children literally dropping dead. And no one seems to care. Does life really have no value for us, especially those of our young.

In Lucknow, several new-born infants died in their incubators in a prestigious hospital, simply because of an inadequate supply of oxygen cylinders. The principal of the King George's Medical College, famous for its super-speciality status, has dismissed the deaths as routine. The quick in-house inquiry which followed has, as quickly, given a clean chit to the hospital authorities.

Close on the heels of this, tragedy struck in Assam when an official inoculation campaign for Pulse Vitamin A claimed the lives of at least 17 children. And hundreds more are struggling for survival. Not just have the deaths taken place but the overdose of the drops had the parents rushing from one hospital to another. Here, as in most other parts of the country, the emergency medical facility collapsed when most needed. Hospitals found themselves paralysed in the face of a huge onrush of young patients. Despite the army pitching in, medical help reached too late or was too little.

What emerged from these two incidents was outright ugly. On one hand is the faulty government programmes and the inefficient health care facilities. On the other there appears to be no fixing of accountability. Charges are being traded to and fro. And the state government, politicians and bureaucracy have made sure everything is so confused and convoluted that the victims can do nothing but remain mute witnesses.

No one has been taken to task so far in this mess, something unthinkable in any other country. No less than the Health minister's head is called for. But will this happen?

Meanwhile, the medical authorities seem to have got away with this criminal negligence.

What we need now is not mere lip service. Words will not do but action. Action to see that those responsible are dragged to the court.

Or else, are we such a callous nation that even the deaths of our young ones fail to move us? Shame on us!

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