Doctor No: One tragedy too many in Bhopal

From The Statesman
December 1984 saw what was perhaps the world’s worst environmental disaster. Twenty-one years later, Bhopal has witnessed a gross abuse of human rights, and not wholly unrelated to the earlier tragedy. A lockout at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre has resulted in the death of three patients. Horror of horrors, it is the doctors who are on strike, clamouring for a pay hike.
What makes the tragedy more poignant is that the hospital was set up with the blood money of gas leak victims; it came up in the early nineties on the orders of the Supreme Court with the seized assets of Union Carbide. It was one way to make the multinational compensate for the disaster.
The authorities now have their back to the wall in their clash with the doctors, and even critical patients have been asked to leave. In any other civilised set-up, the registration of the doctors would have been cancelled. And emergency measures taken to run this super-speciality charitable hospital, so-called. Seldom have the sick and the dying been treated in so heartless a fashion, to the extent that plaintive appeals by relatives were ignored. A 42-year-old patient, languishing with TB in the wake of the 1984 disaster, died on his way to another hospital. Another victim, temporarily invalid after a surgery, was bundled out… to meet his end.
The negligence has been criminal, even a disgrace to the nation. It calls for intervention at the highest level. It is intriguing that the decision to declare a lockout was reportedly taken by the local trustee. The claim that the other trustees are abroad and, therefore, couldn’t be contacted won’t wash in this day and age. And they include worthies such as a former Chief Justice of India, a former MP Governor and the wife of an ex-President.
The decision seems to have been unilateral and was, therefore, as thoughtless and irresponsible as the attitude of the docors. And as irresponsible is Babulal Gaur’s response: “Unless we get a written complaint we can’t do much.’’ Madhya Pradesh cannot expect much from such a Chief Minister, who now has the dubious distinction of being witness to another chapter of Bhopal’s tragedy.

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