Updated: September 23, 2019 6:55:52 am
What does it take to transfer a sick man (or woman) to the nearest healthcare centre?
In the villages of Maspara or Rajabhita in Jharkand’s Godda district, it could mean tying bamboos to the patient’s cot and carrying him on the shoulders of four men for a full 5 kilometres along a dirt track to the nearest motorable road, and then seek transport to the Community Health Centre another 10 km away.
It’s a punishing trek that can sometimes take two hours to complete. It isn’t rare for the men carrying the patient’s cot to turn into pallbearers by the time they reach the road.
Maspara and Rajabhita, in Godda’s Sundar Pahari block, are home to some 150 households of mainly Santhals and the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) of Pahariyas.
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There are no tarmac roads to the two villages, ensuring their residents are cut off from the rest of the world, especially during the monsoon. Even for those who manage to make the long trek, there is no guarantee of getting the help they go looking for.
Lakhiram Hembrem, a Santhal of Maspara, recalls that a couple of months ago, he carried his pregnant wife Talamani Murmu until the service road, where he managed to find transport to ferry her to the Block Community Health Centre — only to be told that it wasn’t time for the delivery, and that he should take her back.
“My wife was in labour, and we carried her to Ghadiyal from where we got a vehicle to the hospital. But the doctor said it was not time yet, and asked me to bring her back when the pain increased. So we carried her back to the village. One and a half months ago, she gave birth at home,” Hembrem said.
Since there is no electricity in the village, “the child was born by a phone’s torch light”.
About a month before he took his wife to the CHC, Hembrem had made the same journey for his neighbour’s son, who was limp with fever. The boy was saved, but not everyone is lucky. Four years ago, Hembrem’s mother died as she was being carried to the health centre. “Yahaan aisa hi hota hai,” Hembrem said. “Bachpan se dekh rahe hain.” (This is how it is here. I have been seeing this since childhood.)
A year and a half ago, Babulal Marandi, another resident of the village, lost his son Arun, who was then six years old, to “diarrhoea and fever”. Marandi said: “He died before reaching the hospital. We came back and buried him.”
Rashik Murmu, also of Maspara, owns a motorcycle, but says it’s of no help in the rainy season. “During the rainy season even riding a two-wheeler is big problem due to the slippery areas. The tyres don’t get any grip. Ferrying an ill person on a motorcycle is risky,” Murmu said.
Around 3 km from Maspara, across a stream, is Rajabhita village. Electricity has reached this village, but residents say they don’t get supply for more than six or seven hours every day.
“It is not that roads cannot be constructed,” said Phulmuni Marandi of Rajabhita. “I don’t understand the delay.”
Phulmuni’s relative, a five-year-old boy, died on the way to hospital. Sunder Pahari BDO S K Saurav said: “Not just these two villages, there are some other villages too where there are no roads and ill people are being ferried on cots till a motorable road. However, road construction is not under my domain, and the work is done through the district level only.” He said that under NREGA, “there is no provision for constructing pucca roads”.
Saurav said he has “informed the district authorities of the problems and the work is going on, and will be completed”.
Godda Deputy Commissioner Kiran Kumar Pasi said there were a few villages in the district such as Maspara, which were on hill top with “no road connectivity”.
“We have surveyed the villages and mapped it through Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Many villages have been connected and the work is to be done in some villages. There are some technical issues which have to be sorted out to construct the roads, but we are on it and the roads will be constructed soon,” she said.
Godda Civil Surgeon Ram Deo Paswan said “there are a few non-motorable roads” in the hilly areas. There were designated “pick-up points” from where patients can be brought to hospitals. “There could 1-2 stray incidents of people being ferried on cots, but much of the population has been covered,” he said.
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