May 8 this year, when the Assembly election results were declared, was a day marked by much celebration for Shivaraj Tangadagi (now Minor Irrigation Minister) and his supporters. It was also the day that pushed the life of 11-year-old Somanath of Hosajooratagi, a remote village in Koppal district, into darkness.
The two may appear unrelated, but they weren’t as the sequence of events of the day reveal.
Son of Ramanna Talawar, an agricultural labourer, Somanath was returning home with his father and a pair of bullocks around 2.30 p.m. on that day. It was summer vacation and he had gone with his father to the fields.
That was when Mr. Tangadagi’s supporters came on the same road in a motorcycle rally to celebrate their leader’s victory in the Kanakagiri constituency in the district. The celebration was so high-pitched that the terrified bullocks started running amok. One of them came straight to Somanath and its horn severely damaged his left eye. As the horrified father sought help, the revelling crowds simply moved on. It was a while before he managed to take his son to the community hospital in Karatagi.
“I kept my palm on my son’s eye to prevent the eyeball from getting dislodged from the socket,” says the father, recalling the incident.
Since the eye was critically damaged, the doctors at Karatagi advised Mr. Talawar to take the boy to a better equipped hospital in Gangavati. The doctors in the Gangavati government hospital, in turn, referred him to the Vijayanagara Institute of Medical Sciences (VIIMS) hospital in Bellary. Taking him to Bellary was not easy for the poor agricultural labourer’s family. More time was lost as he had to return to his village to raise money from family and friends.
The VIMS doctors who eventually operated on him said Somanath had permanently lost sight in his left eye. He was treated at the hospital for a few weeks before being sent home. Treatment at VIMS hospital cost Mr. Talawar Rs. 40,000, which is a huge sum for a family that lives in a 10x15 ft shed and has no source of income except what the family earns through daily wage.
Mr. Talawar and his friends then started trying to approach Mr. Tangadagi for help. “We could get through to him only after one month. By that time the issue had been highlighted in some television channels. Mr. Tangadagi was angry that we had approached the media and then promised to bear the medical expenses. But we have not received a single rupee yet,” Mr. Talawar told The Hindu.
When The Hindu contacted Mr. Tangadagi, he said: “These people (Mr. Talawar and his friends) are accusing me as if I pulled out his son’s eye. It happened accidently, not deliberately. My personal assistant took the boy to Narayana Netralaya in Bangalore. The doctors said there is no eyeball and they cannot do anything. What can I do? How can I be held responsible?” he said.