Message- Dear Keralites: All over the world, medical professionals doing their work are spared even by enemies during a war. Please let them work during hartals in your own state, for your own good.
Like most doctors, I feel very sorry and helpless about seriously ill people on hartal days.
Hartal or not, people suffer, patients on dialysis need to reach hospitals, women need to deliver babies, heart attacks and strokes happen, deaths occur. But those who rule the streets on hartal days seem to lose even basic traits of humanity. They terrorise and force the sick to stay in their homes.
During every hartal, there are “social workers” with bandanas on their heads. The bandanas are of the same colour for a given hartal day, depending on which group or political party is enforcing the hartal. The colour is a distinct identity now.
Red, green, saffron, and now yellow- all are exclusive possessions. What colour is expected in Kerala the next? Will it be the one dreaded the world over- black?
Last year, during a “serious” political hartal I had a few narrow escapes. My colleagues who came to work had their own brush with hartal enforcers. In several places, ambulances were stopped, patients and staff offloaded and roughed up, the drivers getting hit the most. Female staff and senior lady doctors were verbally threatened and abused. Patients were turned back.
The law was conspicuous by its absence. So were the media.
This is the time when 14 year olds in Kerala get the courage to abuse and hurl expletives towards medical workers trying to get to work. Terrorists in the making. What else?
However, the same goons are outraged when their cronies are wheeled into emergency rooms, and they vandalise the place in protest against insufficiency of medical staff on any other day.
The medical staff, however, will still replace their bloodied bandanas with clean, white bandages.
White, the colour of peace.
We are talking about a state that is 100 percent literate.
A state that prides itself on the best healthcare indicators in the country, probably even the planet.
A state which prides itself on its culture and intellectual tradition.
A state where doctors’ fees are one-half to one-tenth of the rest of the country.
A state where, contrary to public belief, most doctors still put patients’ welfare ahead of commercial pressures.
A state which sends several brains to premier medical institutes across the country, only to find those gold-medal winning brains foolish enough to return, to serve in increasingly hostile conditions.
A state where medical staff may be roughed up for taking leave on festivals or national holidays; and may also be roughed up if they muster enough courage to go for work on hartal days.
A state where medical staff have been roughed up regularly, yet the profession has NEVER resorted to a total strike.
Just imagine what would happen if we did. Alas, we are too good-hearted to a fault. For our own people.
A state which is advertised as “God’s own country”.
Ironically, this is the state where freedom of expression is terrorized into silence the most. Had Swami Vivekananda seen Kerala again today, he would have doubtlessly stuck to his line that Kerala is a “mental asylum” in various ways. For saying that, he might have been hacked, his hands chopped off, his house vandalised. Its happened with people here.
No wonder Swami Vivekanand gets little respect in Kerala. He was so right!
Someone or the other getting offended is just a rumor away, a political opportunity away- how much ever sense you may make, how much ever well-intentioned you may be, it matters little once you are maimed or dead.
“God’s own country” sounds good only in ads.
It is an open secret that going by recent trends, there is little indicating Godliness in Kerala, unless one takes the sickening religious extremism and its use by its politicians as the yardstick to label this place as “God’s own country”.
Even in wars, medical professionals are spared by a hostile enemy.
But Kerala is different, isn’t it? Hartals rule!
In any case, medical staff are not eligible for any Ashok chakra, which is usually awarded to military personnel when they show “exemplary courage” (i.e. usually when they die) in the line of work during peacetime.
“Not even a dog would bother” when someone dies, unless there is masala for the media in it. This was a former chief minister’s comment when referring to the medias’ ways of hounding their “sources” for “hot” stories about dead bravehearts.
He was spot on!
Not a SINGLE death that happens to a sufferer due to the hartal itself is reported, even though they should be counted as murders.
No one will ever know how many people died helplessly during a hartal. No media has made a sensational story of how a doctor traveling to attend to people in suffering was waylaid and assaulted.
No media has mentioned that medical staff are probably safer on the warfronts than in their own state during a hartal. No law protects them, no media will cover it.
They are not paid for that.
What do they call the press now a days?
Lets hope for change, lets hope for sense.
Lets hope that the literates of Kerala, indeed, transform it into God’s Own Country.
There is hope.
And I really hope that I don’t get killed or maimed for stating these facts, based on experience, bluntly. If they do kill or maim me, my family surely deserves the Param Vir Chakra in my name.
That’s what they give to soldiers who get killed by an enemy during war.