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Why are children’s lives so cheap?

  By Vijay Darda | 21-08-2017

As usual, the country will forget the inglorious chapter of Gorakhpur deaths but the question will continue to haunt!

Some four years back, there was a huge hue and cry when 35 children died within five days at BC Roy Hospital in Kolkata. Four years later, hardly anyone remembers that incident! At that time, the government had also constituted a three-member committee to investigate, but who remembers that the committee acquitted the hospital authorities! Now there is a storm about Gorakhpur tragedy. The matter of Gorakhpur is slightly different from Kolkata. The cause of death was lack of oxygen here while in Kolkata there was a case of negligence in medical treatment.

As far as the case of deaths of children in Gorakhpur is concerned, I consider it not only carelessness but a case of mass murder. It is ironic that the hospital administration knew that the supply of oxygen will be affected. Nevertheless, no immediate concrete steps were taken. The firm which was supplying oxygen, had warned seven times because the hospital was not making payment of the outstanding bill of more than `68 lakhs. Media reports also said that the principal of the medical college was seeking bribe in lieu of releasing payment to the company supplying oxygen. Payment was delayed due to non-payment of bribe. It makes me wonder how a person can risk the lives of innocent children for a small amount of money? If these reports of the media are true then, in my eyes, that person should be tried for murder.

However, no such initiative has been undertaken by the state government. Shamefully, efforts were made to cover up the case of children’s death due to the shortage of oxygen supply. It was sought to be projected that children did not die due to lack of oxygen but succumbed to various diseases! But investigative journalism bared the government’s farce. When the government realised that the lie would not work, effort was made to suppress the matter by suspending a couple of officers.

However, the death figure of 35 children in 24 hours and 63 children in 5 days in Gorakhpur became public as it was triggered by lack of oxygen supply to the hospital. However, grim reality is that every month in districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining Bihar, hundreds of children die due to the disease called encephalitis.

The main reason for encephalitis is the contaminated food and water along with mosquito bites. Along with this, it spreads like an infection. Most children succumb to this disease in these areas. The state and the central government are concerned about it. Encephalitis is not only claiming lives, but thousands of children are also getting crippled. Though the vaccination campaign has been going on since 2007, it is still incomplete. The cases of corruption in the course of vaccination drive crop up more often than not. The result is that the disease cannot be controlled. Fifty per cent of those who suffer from this disease succumb and 20 per cent of those who survive are devastated because of the irreversible damage to their body and nervous systems.

Developed countries of the world have almost overcome this disease but our death rate is increasing by the year. The biggest reason for the death of our children is the poor condition of health services. You would be surprised to know that our country spends only one per cent of its GDP on healthcare. There are many schemes going on in the name of health but the reality is that the death of children in this country has not been checked. This figure can frighten you that in our country, 7.30 lakh children die within one month of their birth and no more than 10.50 lakh children survive for just one year. Out of every 1,000 children, 48 die. The reason for this is the absence of cures for various diseases.

This figure seems incredible, but it is entirely true that over 8,000 children have died in Patna’s largest government hospital over the last five years! The condition of government medical system in other states of the country is almost the same. The hospitals in the urban areas are just fine but in the villages, the situation is quite serious. The irony is that nobody is concerned about it. Neither the central government nor the state governments are taking any concrete action to ensure effective medical treatment for poor people and to contemplate how lives of the poor children could be saved. The children who are saved from various diseases are not completely healthy because they do not get nutritious food. Have you ever thought what its consequences would be? When the children are malnourished, they will continue to remain victims of malnutrition till they reach the threshold of youth. In such a situation, how can we imagine a better future? It is said that children are a form of God. It is ironic that while we squander crores of litres of milk on God, millions of children go hungry and crave for a few drops of milk.

Before I conclude…

Those who have a very short physical stature have done India proud in Toronto. In the dwarf’s Olympics, World Dwarf Games, the Indian team has won 15 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 12 bronze medals. It is no less than winning a medal in any Olympics but the fame they deserve and should have got was missing. We need to change our attitude.


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Why are children’s lives so cheap?


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