M A I N   N E W S

State of Public Healthcare — I
Health centre turns a haunted house
A.J. Philip
Tribune News Service

People have never seen any staff at this primary health centre
People have never seen any staff at this primary health centre. — Photo by writer

Chandigarh, February 3
We were on our way to Tarapore to visit the public health centre there. We chose it because it is closer to Chandigarh and is approachable by car in less than one hour.

On the way to Tarapore is a big village, Pallanpur, which provides excellent location for Hindi and Punjabi filmmakers. It is the proximity to Chandigarh that attracts them to the area.

The Shivalik hills lend additional charm for the film director to shoot scenes where the hero and the heroine can run around trees singing eternal love to each other.

Small wonder that when a New Delhi magazine group wanted to shoot Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for a cover photograph, it was to this area that its photographer took the venerable CM.

It is a different matter that the villagers seldom benefit from such visits. In fact, more often than not, they have to face a lot of problems because of such VIP and cinematic visits.

“The opportunity to see film stars in real life is something the people cannot miss. They flock to see shooting. Sometimes crops are damaged by the film units, who are insensitive. Yet, the people put up with such difficulties because they are crazy about films,” said Kamal Kishore, a social worker and our guide.

Rumours abound in the area about political leaders and IAS and IPS officers buying large chunks of land for real estate purposes. On the way, one can find on both sides of the road areas demarcated with white poles. White poles here symbolise the advent of “colonizers”.

One can only guesstimate the price of land in the area. Land adjoining the road fetches the maximum price, which could be even Rs 3 crore per acre. For many farmers, it is far more lucrative to sell the land and live off its interest than engage labour to produce crops that do not fetch even a fraction of the potential interest income.

As Kamal Kishore kept explaining the changes that have come about in the area, we reached Miyapur Changar in Majri block. We stopped the car to have a look at the wayside public health centre (PHC). From the car, we could not see any human being at the PHC. Maybe, the centre was closed that day, we thought.

How mistaken we were became clear when we approached the PHC. Weeds grew around the foundation stone laid by some worthy about 10 years ago. My colleague Chitleen Sethi translated the Punjabi inscription for me.

The PHC was set up on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Indian Independence in 1997. We waded through the weeds to reach the centre. The door had a padlock on it.

Cobwebs on the doorframe suggested that it had not been opened for months, if not years.

A signboard on the wall indicated how newborn children should be given polio drops according to a certain schedule. The rates of various services available at the centre were listed on the wall: Rs 200 for ultrasound, Rs 40 for X-ray and Rs 25 for ECG. Ambulance services were also available.

When we peered through the window, all we could see was a thick layer of dust on the concrete platform inside the room. It was apparent that the PHC was not functional.

More surprises awaited us when we went round the building. While the front door was locked, the back doors and windows were missing. Probably, some miscreants had stolen them. There were two toilets without toilet seats. Nor did the toilets have doors. One of them did not have a roof, either.

As we entered what seemed to have been the waiting hall of the PHC, I was reminded of the haunted house in Vaikom Mohammed Basheer’s famous story-turned-Malayalam movie “Bhargavi Nilayam”.

It was difficult to believe that we were in a Public Health Centre built and thrown open to the public to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Indian Independence. We had no clue whether any staff has been posted there. The local people, too, could not help because they had not seen any doctor or nurse ever at this PHC, which today is the haunt of drug-addicts.

To be continued



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