The Sheep Nation

The international Limelight stealers “The Anonymous” who have become very used to making headlines internationally, but here they had to eat a humble pie as no one gave them any media coverage for their adventures this past week. They hacked almost every working, stress is on working, website of J&K government, but no one noticed their achievements and then in sheer desperation hacked the Indian army website but still no headlines. They must be now pondering Where did they go wrong in their assessment, Well in this case they did everything wrong, they chose the wrong targets at the wrong time. For the government websites, who bothers to check them or even update them, there might be some sites which still will be showing Mr Azad as CM of state. Even the much publicized portal for online complaints (http://jkgrievance.nic.in/) is not working properly. The only form of e-governance that this state has is CM’s twitter account.

Couple of weeks ago the whole newspapers were full of news about dogs and then came GB Panth deaths. Strange as it may sound but it seems that every big story was perfectly timed, replanted and had the objective to help in diverting attention. First we had AFSPA used against unmarked graves and then there were cinemas & alcohol shops to help in the cause. Along the way came dogs, When it was becoming too much of nuisance to read about dogs every day on every page, story about infant deaths broke. I am not questioning the importance or the gravity of these stories but I am questioning the timing and the amount of coverage these got (there was hardly any space for anything else).

Why did the number of infant deaths have to reach an odd figure of 350 to become a story? Why there were no concerns about these deaths in the past 4 months?

Even after these infant deaths exposed the hollowness of our healthcare still no one is talking apart from the GB Panth hospital, The Union Health minister came and visited GB Panth Hospital made all kind of noises but did not bother to review the functioning of other hospitals. Our Chief Minister visited GB Panth, along the way scored some brownie points by stopping at a traffic light, later on made the statement declaring that the hospital is in shambles. Is the condition of Lal Ded Maternity hospital or SKIMS exceedingly satisfactory to these people?

The GB Panth deaths didn’t hit us out of blue; every concerned person (doctors & administration) saw them coming, even to some extent the common people. Some doctors and Hospital administration people are claiming that they had escalated the matter to higher authorities a number of times, but they chose to sleep over the matter. So how did our CM happen to miss these reports and requests, the only reason I see is that these reports where not sent to him on his twitter account. Well when at the request of a common citizen the CM can order the transfer of ventilators from other hospitals to GB Panth Hospital why wouldn’t he take note of doctor’s requests, provided they come on twitter. Then we have the audacity to say that our CM does nothing, the catch here is to catch him on twitter.

The incidents of this past week demand that there should be a proper review of all the hospitals, which should be made mandatory to be repeated annually or biannually. But the fact is we will soon forget all this and move on with a new diversion topic being thrown in public domain by the government, government certainly has become the master of the art of diversion & we will be on a new witch hunt, we the Sheep Nation.

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor

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Kashmir’s Healthcare Mess

During my college days (outside valley) I used to boast of Kashmir having the world class doctors. Whenever there was an argument with respect to valley not being able to sustain itself on its own, the quality of Kashmir’s doctors, leading to medical tourism, was always one of my key points for rebuttal. I would use the case of Cuba to prove my rebuttal, of how Cuba even being under U.S sponsored embargo (for almost 52 years now), became the world leader in healthcare, biotechnology, Cancer treatment, Drug research & development etc.

The first step towards the continuation of the tradition of producing world class doctors is the selection process. But of late some people have been able to bypass or fox the selection process through money, reach or appropriate connections. The people from this lot magically get transformed into a serial number on the qualified candidates list. All among us personally know at least one of these “Munna Bhai’s” , somehow we all expect the medical education system either to weed them out or make them well trained and educated for the profession they choose. What we can currently see of our healthcare has proved both these assumptions wrong, almost every serial number on the qualifying list sooner or later gets a degree and regarding making them better qualified for the profession I have my reservations.

Regarding the current status of Kashmir’s healthcare, there seems to be no better word to describe it then “Chaos”. Kashmir sans a proper referral system, which leads to overcrowding of the major hospitals or by the time the patient reaches a specialist precious time has been wasted. A patient even with minor ailments wants to visit the major hospital in Srinagar as no or few specialists are available at Sub District Hospitals (SDH).

Due to lack of Grass-root infrastructure couple of hospitals are being forced to coup up with the requirements of the whole state. It is humanly impossible to try to deliver healthcare services for a complete state/region through  couple of hospitals only. Even these highly vital hospitals are not well equipped to help our doctors perform their duties with out any hindrances . SHMS hospital’s CATH lab is ill equipped due to which all the procedure can’t be performed there despite one of the most renowned specialist being available. Recently patients died in SKIMS because oxygen supply was stopped due to some technical snag, the G.B Pant Children Hospital has recently transformed a graveyard for the want of ventilators and what can one say about Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, which happens to be Kashmir’s only Maternity Hospital!

Taking into consideration that every doctor in any major hospital is working extremely hard, at times working for at a stretch for 48 hours or more! We have to commend them for their excellent services. With everyday our doctors challenge the humanly limits, the least they deserve are “better working condition”.

Government needs to keep politics aside and help doctors and other stakeholders in improving Healthcare practices and infrastructure. We all know what happened to Dr. Shawl’s dream project of a super specialty cardiology hospital. If government instead of creating hurdles would had only ignored, not even supported or encouraged the initiative Kashmir would have a Cardiology Hospital by now. Who knows it might have even encouraged some other people to take some other initiatives, but now it is what deters them from making any such efforts.

Only encouraging private sector to invest in healthcare won’t solve the problem here, it is high time that this sector is regulated properly through laws and regulations, which should be implemented with rigorous zeal. The enactment of Drug policy with proper implementation seems to be a good beginning but we have a long way to go. We need to look into our medical education system, try to restore the past glory of Government Medical College, Srinagar, which in near future has too often come too close to de-reorganization from Medical Council of India. Unless we take thing as seriously as they are, a poor man will continue to pay with his blood and the saviors will continue to be enticed to embrace their darker side.

Many  people have been asking for banning of private practice of doctors, well it won’t be possible till there is a demand for it and there will always be demand. So why not try to better regulate private practice. As long as the doctors sincerely deliver their duties in their respective hospitals or places of posting, no one should have a problem with what they do after their duty hours. What needs to be looked into is the undue advantage that some doctors take of their position and reputation. Some well established and reputed doctors in Srinagar (and other towns) in their quest for a complete monopoly have trained their wards in complementary services like radiology or pathology and they don’t accept reports from any labs other than the ones they recommend. So among the family members a patient is sucked till the last drop of blood. May I ask what gives the doctors the right to declare all labs, other than their wards (or the one they recommended) to be pieces of junk. Can government dare to take some action against these affluent doctors? Why is government making any effort in raising the standard of Hospital Labs?

With each passing day healthcare is becoming costlier, every single J&K resident needs to be given access to a Health insurance. Government had started this initiative for its employees but suddenly it has lost all steam, May we ask why?

For this dismal state of Healthcare government is more responsible than doctors. The government’s apathy is such, that it many a times it sends rules and regulations flying through the window. In government hospitals we find Ayurvedic (Unani) doctors practicing homeopathic medicine, which happens to be completely against Supreme Court guide lines.

There is also no proper planning while identification of sites for new hospitals or even when implementing these projects. I would like to ask the government, pardon my language, who was the idiot who approved the construction of Unani (Ayurvedic) Hospital at the HMT chowk (square), didn’t he know that the road widening will happen. Does environment of one of the busiest squares on a national highway qualify for a site for any Hospital? Regarding how efficient our government machinery is in implementation of projects let’s take the example of Sub-district Hospital (SDH) Sopore, the founding stone of this hospital was laid in 1984 and still it has not been completed! Well we can say it confirms another entry for Sopore in Guinness Book of World Records, first one being for it’s yet to be completed by-pass bridge. SDH Sopore is operating through its OPD Block, which itself is not complete!

Coming back to comparison of Cuban Healthcare with that of Kashmir’s, there are many similarities (having large number of qualified, hardworking and intelligent doctors and paramedic staff etc) but there is one major difference that hinders our transformation into one of the leaders of healthcare and that is government will.

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor http://kashmirmonitor.org/kashmonitor/05192012-ND-kashmir%E2%80%99s-healthcare-mess-26697.aspx

May Day, Mayday!

1st of May has been celebrated as a springtime festival since 13th century and later on from 1880 it also was celebrated as labor day, to give due recognition to the working people. Here in Kashmir we are not sure whether to celebrate it or not, we haven’t seen much of spring yet nor are we known for giving due reorganization to people for their work.
Since ages Kashmir has been very famous for its handicrafts, woodwork, paper-machie , silk, Saffron etc., but recently all these arts are dying a silent death. The taste of people has changed, the architecture has changed, priorities have changed and in the middle of all this change our culture is vanishing. The craftsmen have tried and are trying to survive this wave of change but the question is how much have the successive governments helped to promote these crafts. To summarize all the help that these skilful people have received nothing more should be required to be said then that these people are making every effort to make sure that their sons and daughters do not get into their father’s & grandfather’s trade. Recently a genius of a craftsman, the creator of “The Lonely Tree”, Khazir Mohammad Qasba, died but none noticed. With death of the masters, the death of art itself will follow and with it another part of our rich culture is destined to die a silent and lonely death.
In Kashmir the thinking minds and the able bodies are being exploited in open day light and nothing is being done about it. Well what can one do when the Government who is supposed to be the protector of week is actually facilitating this exploitation.  Government took the saying “something is better than nothing” a bit too seriously and the young generation is bearing the brunt. Teachers, agriculture graduates, forestry graduates etc (many a times even PhD’s) are being hired by government on temporary basis on remuneration of fifteen hundred rupees per month, yep you read it right just Rs 1500/-. This has acted as a blessing for the private players (NGO’s, Private companies etc) in the state, now they have made this remuneration amount as a benchmark. Teachers in private schools are being paid around Rs 3,000/- per month but the amount that these schools show to their benefactors and Government authorities (from whom they receive grants & Donations) is not less than Rs 10,000/- (as salary per teacher). It is an open secret not hidden from any one, but still no action is being taken against the perpetrators. The Labor Department who are supposed to take action against these violators of law is a just namesake department. Just outside the office of Labor Commissioner, Batamalo ,we can observe child labor; children are working in the mechanic shops, they are working as conductors / helpers in public transport vehicles. When the labor department is so blind to something in front of their eyes then how can we expect them to check whether “Shops & Establishments Act” or “Contract Labor Act” or “Remuneration Act” etc are being implemented and adhered to or not.
The government never lets an opportunity go begging when  it comes to claiming accolades (even for someone else’s work) but when it comes to punishing the corrupt, well a probe is setup and nothing more is done. This has had a very bad effect on the whole setup. Nothing moves forward unless you grease some palms. Now a day’s even the Jobs are on sale and there is a proper rate list. All this is being done unofficially but governments is even through its official policies promoting only certain class of people (elitist). The government is not providing equal opportunity to everyone to compete in competitive exams or in government jobs. The government uses High application fee for competitive exams and for applying in the government jobs as a deterrent. To describe the situation in a better way let me give a comparative example of fee structure for different posts and exams recently advertised by J&K PSC and UPSC:
Post/Exam
Recruiting Agency
Fee (RS)
IAS
UPSC
100
KAS
J&K PSC
800
Asst. Provident Fund Commissioner
UPSC
25
Court Manager
J&K PSC
400
IFS (exam stretched over 10 days)
UPSC
100
Asst. Surgeon (Veterinary)
J&K PSC
500
Now you can yourself see and compare the exaggerated charges that that J&K PSC is charging from the candidates (who do not have a source of income). It is a general concept among the youth of J&K that whenever the government doesn’t have funds to pay salary of it employees it advertises couple of posts and then forget about these post just to be remembered in time when most of those who had applied have become over-aged, then the process is repeated over again. An intelligent plan for a continuous source of income one can say.
Now coming back to the question whether to celebrate May Day or not, I think you all will agree that we here in Kashmir have nothing to celebrate. We can only cry Mayday hoping that someone will hear us, is anyone listening!