Twenty-three percent of India ‘s population is below the poverty line i.e.one sixth of the world population is below poverty line The $7 per day limit set by the UN for poverty is much above the standard set by our government. As for me, I thought that we ‘knew’ much about these people and about their conditions but I was so wrong.
We were aware of Vidyapith’s relief activities and we were also invited to take an active part in this but that was during the start of Class XI and were all adjusting in our new home. Only recently did our Secretary Maharaj remind us and six of us voluntarily gave our names. Next Tuesday, that is the 9th of September, 2012 we got ready in the morning and left at 8:20 AM. On the way, we picked up Dr KK Sen, a retired orthopaedic surgeon and a physician and Dr PK Mandal, General Physician. In around thirty minutes we reached the site. Vivekananda Swasthya Seva Prakalpa was now underway.
The Arogya Mobile Unit had already reached Thariara village under Mohanpur subdivision of Deoghar district. Our camp was already set up in the only concrete building in the village. The doctors were escorted into a small room with some tables and chairs only. First, it seemed that the villagers were providing less but we soon realised that such provisions were only a luxury for those people. There was no electricity but work had already started. I took up crowd control, Manjit and Deepu took shifts in assisting the doctor and the patients in the doctors’ chamber while Abby was giving a helping hand to the support staff and the patients outside. Danuj da was in in charge of distributing the medicine while Bala da and Mr G Nag were busy maintaining the records and distributing the tickets. A considerably large crowd was gathered outside, consisting of patients from all nearby villages. The first thing that came to notice was that most people had stunted growth. Most common cases were of weakness, headache, skin diseases, osteoporosis, fractures and above all malnutrition. Everyone with a ticket was getting treated but o tell you the truth, the solution to all this would be to provide adequate food and other resources to them. The road was not at all manoeuvrable further ahead. The other boys went to interact with the locals. They found many children and approached them. The boys never paid any heed to my friends. But the moment they heard the sound of wrappers they immediately surrounded my friends and incessantly begged. After my friends gave up everything, the children left off. Nearby some other boys of our age were present. Keith asked them how they spent their times. Basically, they work in the fields for two months of rain and for the rest of the year they find work as labourers here and there. The energy situation was very grim there. Power lines had been laid out but electricity never actually came to the region. The doctors were provided with fans that were connected to batteries. Nights were spent with lamps and other articles or else in complete darkness. The people had repeatedly approached the proper authorities for this problem but all in vain. We have developed a conception that all village people are hardworking but if anyone works hard, he is sure to get the fruit one way or the other. Then why was this village so impoverished? My friends were soon going to find out the village elders themselves were also themselves responsible for their fate to some extent. Some village elders called my three friends; practically they were drunk and they started asking irrelevant questions. Ankit quickly brought them back to earth and asked why didn’t they send their children to schools. Their reply was, “What will they do in school? We sometimes send them to get the mid-day –meals and sometimes when cycles and food-grains are distributed by the government.” An interesting sight was that many people there were wearing our Vidyapith shirts and play vests with names written. Vidyapith actually distributes them via the Balakendra’s it has set up in each of the villages there. Now let me tell you about some of the peculiar cases that we saw. There was a pregnant girl (lady would not be suitable because she was only seventeen years old!) with some problems in the joint. When we knew about her age, we investigated and came to know that she was married off at a very tender age of thirteen. When my friends were returning they also found a schoolgirl of Class VII who was married just that year. These things were nothing strange for these people. It is just their way of life. There was again another level of inequality amongst these people too. Some were perfectly healthy while most were lean and thin. We also saw some cases of Kwashiorkor for the time in real-life. There was also a severe case of weakness in a young girl. Her tongue was white in colour and she couldn’t even stand. Her blood was very low and the doctor scheduled her for further diagnosis in the town nearby. Another case scheduled for further diagnosis was that of a lady in her thirties. She broke her arm very badly after she fell off a ‘Mahua-tree’. Apparently ‘Mahua’ is the most popular form of liquor at that place.
That day was a unique experience for all of us. Firstly we all were very satisfied in satisfied in helping those poor people. We also got the chance to really experience the actual conditions of the depressed. It was also evident that those people were also partly responsible for their status. Still, it is up to us and the government to help out these people- medical help, in fact, is the cheapest and easiest help we can give to them. To really uplift these people, education and other basic infrastructures have to be provided.
We were finished by 11:30 AM. The Trikut Pahar in the background looked beautiful with its peak crowned by the clouds from there. Our batch went there on an excursion back in 2008. It’s strange that on that hill 72 boys were having a time of their lives and only a few kilometres away, so many people were struggling to support themselves. We all share a common opinion that these people deserve our help and support but very few of us ever do anything in that direction. To quote Mahatma Gandhi,
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”