Lucknow, August 12: Availing medical care in India is indeed a luxury, more so, if you are poor. While rich patients treat themselves in plush private hospitals, poor are doomed to go to government-run hospitals where most often basic facilities like a well-trained doctor and a strip of tablets of paracetamol are not even available.
Shocked? Don't, because India believes in spending more on defence and not on health, a primary requirement for all the citizens.
In the union budget 2017-18 announced in February this year, the finance minister (FM), Arun Jaitley, allocated Rs 3,59,854 crore (US$ 53.5 billion) to the ministry of defence (MoD).
Want to know the total spending of the Narendra Modi government in the health sector? It's a meagre 2.5 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country to take care of 1.3 billion Indians.
Moreover, the Economic Survey report made public early this year stated that the country's public spending on health is "little over" 1 per cent of the GDP.
"Given the pressing need to redistribute, India did not invest sufficiently in human capital--for instance, public spending on health was an unusually low 0.22 per cent of the GDP in 1950-51. This has risen to a little over 1 per cent today, but well below the world average of 5.99 per cent," the survey tabled in Parliament said.
If figures and reports have failed to convey you the distressing healthcare scenario in the country, then you need to visit any government-run hospital in the country, where mostly the poor go to, as we all know private hospitals are "sharks" which are mostly out to "devour" patients by looting their bank deposits.
Barring a few, most government hospitals present a pathetic sight. Be it in Bengaluru, IT hub of India, or in a small village in Odisha, go to any government-run hospital or a dispensary, sufferings of patients, lack of availability of health facilities, apathy of doctors and administrative bottlenecks are a 'cocktail' to showcase how much India cares about the poor and the dying.
In many rural areas of the country, people are yet to see a hospital in and around their villages even after 70 years of independence. Thus the caretakers of ill people have to trudge miles to take patients to a nearest hospital.
If in rural areas there are hardly any hospitals or dispensaries, in cities and towns most often government hospitals are symbol of neglect and torture of patients.
The tragic death of 63 children at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, in the last five days, allegedly due to lack of supply of oxygen further illustrates that those patients who 'dare' to visit government hospitals have no guarantee that they would come out of them alive.
Yes, such is the deplorable state of country's healthcare system. And, it's the underprivileged people who often die without any care.
That is why "shocked" by the utter callousness of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in UP, Nobel Peace Laureate and child rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, has called the deaths of the children in the hospital "not a tragedy" but a "massacre".
"30 kids died in hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It's a massacre. Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?" Satyarthi tweeted with strong words.
"Appeal to CM @myogiadityanath Ji. Your decisive intervention can correct decades of corrupt medical system of UP to prevent such incidents," the Nobel Laureate added.
There is a reason behind Satyarthi, a non-partisan man, using such strong words to lambast the government. Such a horrible incident--where 30 children died within 48 hours on Friday and a total of 63 minors in the last five days, allegedly due to lack of supply of oxygen in the hospital--definitely pinpoints lack of human empathy on part of the hospital management and the government at large.
Reports state that supply of oxygen to the hospital was stopped by a private company due to the non-payment of dues. What was the hospital doing all these days? Why did not the authorities in the hospital report to the higher authorities that a crisis has hit them? Don't they know nobody can survive without oxygen?
Call it lack of human empathy, sincerity or prevalence of large-scale corruption that plagues us everywhere, but India can definitely do better than this by stopping such unwarranted deaths of innocent children.
Satyarthi is right in his assessment when he questioned the kind of "freedom" the nation provides its children after the passage of 70 years of independence. The Nobel Laureate also highlights the corrupt system that is killing patients in India.
While opposition parties are demanding resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the "massacre", one thing is clear--be it a BJP-ruled state or a Congress-ruled one, fate of a poor patient is often an "unfortunate death".