Toying with tribal lives
Toying with tribal lives

Nothing could be more heart-wrenching than to hear that an anaemic tribal woman delivered a stillborn baby while her husband and relatives carried her in a doli to a hospital, walking down the inhospitable hilly terrain for 12 km in Vizianagaram district on Monday.

The hapless woman, who went into labour, months ahead of her confinement date, had to be carried physically since no ambulance could reach their village Sirivaram, a hamlet of Padam panchayat in Saluru mandal, as there was no road.

The journey they had made was shocking as her husband and relatives had to wade through the bushes, precariously balancing the doli on their shoulders to make the descent. It appeared as though the state had abdicated its responsibility of providing basic medical facilities in villages and left the tribals to battle their woes to reach the first village in civilisation, for it to act and help them.

At least the administration kept an ambulance ready at Duggeru from where she was rushed to Paravtipuram. Doctors at the government hospital in the small town diagnosed the baby having died already and the mother being in a critical condition.

She was administered four units of blood and ensured that she was out of danger. But the credit of saving her life does not go to the doctor but to her husband who had shown indomitable courage in transporting her in a makeshift doli. No one knows if she was taken in doli at the time of her wedding, but she did have the experience while trying to reach the hospital.

Tribals carrying their dear ones for emergency medical care in makeshift contraptions are a symptom of a deeper malaise of negligence and inaction that is afflicting the government.

The duty of the government is to provide basic medical facilities and motorable roads but they are glaringly absent in many tribal villages. After this woman delivered a stillborn child, the ITDA sanctioned a road to the village which makes one wonder if an infant has to pay with its life for a small facility like a motorable road to a village.

The government claims happiness of its subjects is its concern but it would not be able to reach this aim unless it fulfils its basic obligations to the people. Though more than 20 bike ambulances had been sanctioned for Vizianagaram district, they were of no use since there was no road to the village.   

In 2016, we have seen a tribal walking with his dead wife on his shoulder to his village located 60 km from Kalahandi in Odisha after she died of tuberculosis at the government hospital.

Though he pleaded with the authorities, no mortuary van was provided for him. It was only after he walked for 10 km, transport was made available to him that too when the media brought his plight to the notice of the authorities. In case of Odisha victim, it was the staff of the hospital who failed but in case of Vizianagaram tribal, it was the government. It owes an explanation to the dead infant and his mother.

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