In a plastic bag

What would you do if you had to carry the body of your dead child in a plastic bag for miles at an end from the hospital where he was born? I am not joking but dead serious. This happened last year to a tribal couple in a country that boats of luxury hospitals, swanky malls and the world's richest people: India. A tribal, Ayappan’s wife Valli, near term pregnant with child, had hypertension and anaemia. The nearby tribal mission hospital referred her to the tribal speciality hospital at Kottathara 43 km away. But this hospital was crumbling and many of its facilities, like the ope­ration theatre, were closed down. So Valli was referred to the Palakkad Medical College, over three hours away by jeep. By the time they reached there, it was too late—she gave birth to a still-born male child. The hospital denied the couple an ambulance to take home their dead child. Ayappan and Valli carried their dead child in a plastic bag and took the state transport bus. They had to change four buses before they reached Kalpetti where they buried their first-born in the corner of their field. This is one the heart breaking stories that appeared in a leading magazine this week.

The article is about extreme malnutrition in the tribal belt of Pallakad district, Kerala. I urge you to take time of your busy schedule and read it with your heart. In the last six months scored of children have died in the tribal cluster of Attapady. The villages are in a pitiful state with no drainage or safe drinking water and scant food. Women are severely anemic, and children malnourished. Most of this happened after the land of the tribals was taken over by mafia in the name of setting up windmills. The tribal have no access to the forests that once were their feeding bowls, ensuring them proper nourishment. You can get the details of this horror story in the article. Some tokenism and knee jerk reactions have taken place, but everything will be back to square one. The tribals are not understood and easily marginalised in the name of development. yet with so many infants deaths the tribes are worried they might just be wiped out.

To me what is disturbing is that this is happening within the knowledge of politicians and administrators, and now the media. It supposedly has all the social hand outs that the government sets up but none of them work. The hospital is decrepit, the creches do not work and I am sure no school exists. No one is truly interested in the area as it only returns one MLA!

Is life so cheap in our country? Our these children not ours? Are they not protected by the rights enshrined in our Constitution. Have we lost our consciences forever? Will once again this terrifying story be forgotten as all others that do not concern us directly?

Try to imagine the pain and sense of helplessness and hopelessness of the mothers who see their children dying. Try to imagine the distress and anguish of tow young parents carrying their dead child in a plastic bag for miles and miles because a hospital denied them an ambulance? And if you can then will you remain silent or scream.