By Sanjay K Bissoyi:
Japanese encephalitis (JE), a vector-borne disease, has claimed more than 50 lives in Malkangiri, one of the poorest districts in India, also affected by Maoist activity. If this tragic incident had happened in Delhi, by now it would have become the hottest debating point in prime time television and editorial pages of most of the mainstream newspapers of the country. However, the cruel twist of irony is that a few politicians, health experts and others talk about the dismal condition of the deprived people.
Culex mosquitoes spread the JE virus from pigs to humans. Over the years, Odisha government has been distributing mosquito nets to citizens and has claimed to have provided over a million nets to the people. Moreover, the government has made efforts to isolate pigs from the human population. This can cause major inconvenience. In Malkangiri, raising and breeding of domestic pigs are some of the crucial components of livelihood for the villagers. If pigs are located away from human habitation, then who will take care of them? Who is going to compensate for their losses?
“India to Sign defence deal of 39,000 crores”, “India signed Rafale deal with France”, “India to counter China at BRICS summit”, have been some of the headlines of newspapers across the country. But no one is talking about lack of effective healthcare in rural India.
Who is responsible for this alarming situation in Malkangiri? According to Prameya News 7, Bijay Mohapatra, a BJP leader has alleged that both the state and central government failed to provide vaccinations. Where is the Article 47 of Directive Principles of State Policy, which says that it is the moral duty of the State to raise the standards of living and nutrition of its people? Innumerable policies and schemes but no panacea. The abysmal situation is continuing even after 69 years of independence. There are programmes like Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) and Public Distribution System (PDS) to improve the situation. But we are still home to 194.5 million malnourished children – which is a quarter of the world’s malnourished children.
India is ranked 97 among 118 developing countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). Most of the neighbours – China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – are ranked above India. According to the United Nations, India is going to be the most populous country of the planet by 2022. The nation should give priority to human resources of the country. By 2030, the United Nations wants to end global hunger and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But where is the Indian effort to mobilise all the vital sectors like health, education, environment, etc?
The Indian government in the past has popularised slogans like ‘Garibi Hatao’ and ‘India Shining’. But on the other hand, there is endemic poverty, lack of safe drinking water and sanitation, unemployment, etc. The implementation of the developmental programmes remain patchy. The Hindustan Times reported that 17 children from the Korku tribe lost their lives due to malnutrition at Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh in the last three months. It is noteworthy to question the point of Skill India, Digital India, etc., if children die. ‘Smart Cities’ will achieve nothing, if the inhabitants remain hungry. National Human Rights Commission seeks reports in awful cases like the one in Orissa, but never takes any strict actions against the wrongdoers. As long as millions of Indians go to bed with an empty stomach, ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ will remain a hollow slogan. Everyone should remember that health is not everything; however, everything else is nothing without good health.