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The good doctor of Odisha’s Malkangiri village


When Kumulu Kirsani, a tribal teenager, fell seriously ill on a dull grey morning on September 17, all the ills that keep Odisha’s Malkangiri district backward seemed to conspire against him. Kumulu’s problems rose from just the fact that he lived in Nuagada, a poor, backward village inaccessible by any mode of transport. The nearest ambulance was parked 5 km away.

As usual, the village fell back on Shakti Prasad Mishra, an Ayurvedic physician, who devised a sling to carry Kumulu to the ambulance. “Having no other way to save the patient, the ambulance driver Gobind Nagulu and I decided to carry him on the sling,” says Dr. Mishra.

Dr. Mishra’s ‘clinic’ is the entire remote district of Malkangiri, one of the worst affected by Maoist violence, and he is the only hope for health and sanitation in Khairaput block, where even mobile phones go dead.

Every morning, Dr. Mishra and his team start from Markapadar for their routine monthly visit to any one village. Since 2012, the doctor has been serving marginalised tribal communities under a Union government project. Some 50 remote villages, several inaccessible tribal hamlets, and two residential schools at Badadural and Markapadar eagerly wait for the doctor and his mobile health team.

During the four monsoon months, his camp shifts to Govindpalli, as the road to Markapadar becomes unmotorable. To reach villages such as Kusumpadar, the team treks around 2 km through hilly jungle terrain. “The smile on the faces of the waiting villagers makes us forget the sweat and slog,” Dr. Mishra says.

He treats over 1,000 patients a month. Regular awareness building about health and sanitation, treatment of common diseases, distribution of medicines, timely check-ups of pregnant women and children are his regular tasks.

His team transports pregnant women and seriously ill patients to the nearest hospital during emergencies. He distributes allopathic medicines using the basic diagnostic skills learnt during his BAMS course. “Service to the needy as obeisance to God was the motto of the sages who propounded Ayurveda. I am just trying to follow it,” he says.

(Text and images by Biswaranjan Rout)

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