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Journalism of Courage

After the flood,a healing touch

It’s late evening and the military rescue contingent in flood-hit Dallawala,a remote village in interior Haridwar,Uttarakhand.

It’s late evening and the military rescue contingent in flood-hit Dallawala,a remote village in interior Haridwar,Uttarakhand,is on its way back to the nearest cantonment in Luxur. But Capt Bhupendra Singh of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) can’t call it a day yet. As dusk settles in,Capt Singh still has a huge rush of patients to attend to—in multiple queues before him,desperately seeking an out-of-turn appointment with the doctor. “It’s hard to pacify panic-stricken patents in pain,” he says,hardly looking up.

Capt Singh is posted at 414 Field Hospital in Dehradun but has now been attached to the Luxur cantonment as part of the relief operations. At the hospital in Dehradun,his patients come through appointments or during scheduled OPD timings. The number of patients here,the doctor admits,is overwhelming.

Today,Capt Singh began at 7 in the morning and has already seen 270 patients and counting. “It has been like this for the last four days,” he says. “The situation is bad. It’s hard,and perhaps even unethical,in these circumstances to think of packing up and leaving,” he says.

Uttarakhand has been ravaged by a week of flash floods and landslides and several areas along the Ganga were flooded. Now the water is finally receding,but Dallawala village,like many others,is battling water-borne diseases.

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Men,women and wailing children crowd the verandah of a house in the village,where Capt Singh has his make-shift clinic. The power supply is erratic and the humming mosquitoes make things worse for the doctor and his patients. Capt Singh says he isn’t worried about falling ill himself since he’s trained to take on all this and worse,especially after his last stint in Siachen,where he served until two months ago.

Last week,several parts of Dallanwala were under flood waters and it was impossible to set up even a make-shift clinic. “That was a challenging time,” Capt Singh says,breaking off from work for a moment. “With life jackets on,we would travel 10-15 km on boats to reach houses. Many people had stayed on indoors or were camping on roof tops. We gave them medicines at their doorsteps and evacuated those who needed critical care,” he says.

Suddenly,there’s a rush. It’s an emergency. The patients make way for a middle-aged women screaming in pain. After a quick check,Capt Singh declares,“It’s appendicitis.” For now,the doctor prescribes a pain killer but he tells the patients’ relatives that they will have to consider surgery the next time there’s pain.


At 6 p.m.,Haridwar Additional District Magistrate S N Pandey,who is overseeing relief and rescue work,arrives to take stock of the situation. “The situation is grim,” the young officer tells Pandey. “There are nearly 55 suspected malaria cases coming in every day and an equal number of gastroenteritis cases. The number of patients with skin diseases and allergies is also rising,” he says.

An hour later,Capt Singh’s olive greens is drenched in sweat. So how long does he plan to stay on in Dallawala? “As long as there are patients,” he says.

First published on: 26-09-2010 at 01:28 IST
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