Though Sunita Tomar was the face of India’s anti-tobacco campaign, the central government on its own did not give her any monetary assistance for treatment, her family has claimed days after she died in penury at a hospital in Gwalior.
“We didn’t get even one rupee from the central government. What she got was just a ‘shreefal’ from the then Health Minister Harshvardhan when she was felicitated for her fight, determination and campaign against cancer in August 2014,” Sunita’s 35-year-old husband Brijendra Singh Tomar told PTI on phone from his home district Bhind in Madhya Pradesh.
“I was hopeful when she was roped in for anti-tobacco campaign in a video that some help from the Centre will trickle in for her. People around us comforted us that the central government might help us in distress but it didn’t happen,” he said.
However, he said the family had never asked for any help from the government.
Brijendra, who is a driver, said that he has to repay around Rs 3.50 lakh loan which he had taken from people for her wife’s treatment at different hospitals. He also said that he was finding it difficult to bring up his two children Dhruv (13) and Gandharv (10).
He said that when Sunita’s health deteriorated, they rushed her to a hospital in Bhind on March 31 from where she was referred to Jayarogya hospital around midnight.
Sunita, 30, was then admitted to Jairogya hospital in Gwalior where she died in an hour or so at around 3.30 AM on April 1.
Sunita had undergone a surgery for oral cancer at Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital in July 2013, but the dreaded disease relapsed killing her.
She had shared her experience in a video, which was used by the central government for its anti-tobacco drive to warn people against consumption of smokeless gutkha and pan masalas.
A few days before her death, Sunita had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing deep disappointment at BJP MP Dilip Gandhi’s statement in his capacity as chairman of Lok Sabha’s Committee of Subordinate Legislations that there was no Indian study to confirm that tobacco use leads to cancer.
“Recently Dilip Gandhi, chairman of a parliamentary panel wrote to the Health Ministry asking for the notification on bigger tobacco pack warnings to be kept in abeyance. I was shocked that people in such high posts can be so irresponsible.
“Bigger warnings can probably save some innocent lives like mine. You have started to take people along in your ‘Mann Ki Baat’ where you recently talked about de-addiction. I hope you will also take up the cause of tobacco,” Sunita had written in the letter.