‘We can’t access welfare pensions, anganwadis or healthcare’

On Thursday morning, a small crowd gathered in the football ground in front of ‘Maidan Hospital’ at Devarjeevanahalli. Some had foregone a day’s wages while others had left their children and housework behind to participate in a public hearing, primarily centring on access to healthcare and welfare pensions.

A majority of the complaints were about public health centres. Residents alleged that they are turned away without treatment, denied basic medication or forced to pay bribes. A few mothers complained that anganwadis were either not functioning properly, failing to give rations and medicines allocated to those diagnosed with ‘severe and acute malnutrition’, or not registering children.

Nazima, mother of Nawaz who is differently-abled and severely malnourished, told officials the public health centre is always out of stock forcing her to spend over Rs. 800 every month on medicines. She was referred to Nimhans for her child’s treatment but wasn’t told that a BPL card would ensure free treatment. She said that after running around for years she got a BPL card, but her child is yet to get disability pension.

Bribes at hospital

Mohsina, 32, said that doctors in the neighbourhood hospital, called Maidan Hospital, are never around; and when they are, they lose no time in referring patients to private hospitals. “We are made to pay for everything — officials seek bribes for admission, make us pay for every medicine, often asking us to buy from outside citing lack of stock and charge a fee for every test,” she alleged. She appealed to the government to deploy personnel at the hospital round-the-clock.

Officials started fumbling when asked by a jury, comprising legal experts, members of NGOs and representatives from the State Minorities’ Commission and Human Rights Commission, to respond to the allegations.

Officials from the Department of Women and Child Welfare said that 40 new anganwadis are slated to open in the locality. Hearing this, members of the audience pointed out that this has been on the cards for four months. Mohan, district disability welfare officer, said that the government would conduct a disability adalat to take up individual complaints.

‘Violation of rights’

State Human Rights Commission member C.G. Hunagund said that denial of basic services amounted to gross violation of human rights.

It was also pointed out that there were no boards outside hospitals, informing people about their entitlements, leading to them being taken for a ride.

Health department officials made a plethora of promises, including deputing a gynaecologist and an ambulance, and publicising a contact number to tackle allegations of corruption.

The public hearing was organised by the Karnataka Arogya Janandolana. Emotions ran high throughout the four-hour hearing. People kept trickling in, some hoping to find an instant solution to their woes.

Mehrunissa, whose two children are disabled, came with pension applications hoping to get one of the officials at the venue to sign on the forms. Disappointed to find that she wouldn’t get an instant solution, she wept, “How many more offices will I have to visit? I am tired of leaving my children with the neighbours? Nobody cares about us.”

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