INDIA: Independence Day for cows as hospitals massacre children

How exactly can one react to a republic that lets more than 60 of its children die in just 48 hours for the want of oxygen as the company supplying oxygen to the hospital had stopped it after repeated warnings for the same over non-payment of Rs. 68 Lakhs? How exactly one must feel after learning that these deaths are not the only one, that 114 children have died this year in the same hospital, and more than 25,000 since 1978.

These are merely the reported instances. Civil society organisations allege that the real death toll would in fact be more than 50,000 – most of them children who never managed to reach the hospital. How exactly one must feel after realising that the killer disease, Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and its major form that affects the area Japanese Encephalitis has an effective vaccine against it? To top it all, the disease doesn’t attack unannounced – the dance of death occurs every single year, and gets really bad after the onset of the monsoons. This is exactly what is happening in Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur year after year, with the toll crossing 1000 in particularly bad years.

Yet another state is Madhya Pradesh, a state with no better medical facilities and perhaps a worse record on child malnutrition. Health Minister of the state herself admitted in the state assembly that absolutely curable diseases like diarrhoea killed a whopping 25,440 children in the state in 2016 alone. Add to this the fact that the health department of the state confesses that malnutrition killed 116 children in the state in 2015 and 2016. This too despite the fact that the authorities seldom acknowledge malnutrition deaths and almost always try to blame them on diseases.

Madhya Pradesh is on its way to appoint ‘astrologers, vastu experts, palmists and proponents of Vedic karmakanda’ in the outpatient departments (OPDs) of the hospitals. The state government’s plan is for these people to examine both admitted patients and visitors to the hospitals and diagnose their diseases. The OPDs will reportedly have teams of experts and new astrologers to study the planets and the horoscopes of the patients and arrive at a diagnosis. Of course, the government of Madhya Pradesh has ensured no compromise with quality. It will appoint only trained astrologers to OPDs, those with degrees from state government’s Maharashi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan (MPSS).

If this all sounds like a cruel joke, it is not. The union government has decided to appoint a 19-member panel headed by the Union Minister for Science and Technology to study the benefits of panchgavya — the concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee (clarified butter). While government hospitals are in a state of complete decay and neglect and are chronically short of staff, medicines, and equipment, the union government is forming a National Steering Committee for “Scientific Validation and Research on Panchgavya” (SVAROP) programme. The secretaries of departments of Science and Technology, Biotechnology, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, and scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi are to be appointed to this body.

The future of any country depends on its children. This means the future of India depends on how well the state is able to provide children with education, health care, and equal opportunities to attain their fullest intellectual and physical growth. Unfortunately, in India, the interest and hence the investment is on religiously significant matters, and not upon the children. Today, on the 70th Independence Day, there are large number of Indians who worry about the future of their children, and of this great country. It is the responsibility of the government to address immediately this concern.