Malnourishment looms large in the heart of Bangalore, giving the lie to the city’s claim as an affluent IT hub. In Devarajeevanahalli (commonly known as DJ Halli) in eastern Bangalore, people struggle for even the basic necessities.
Meghala, a five-year-old child, died of malnourishment in July. Six months on, nothing has changed, with anganwadis being few and far between in DJ Halli. The area has just 18 anganwadis for an under-6 population of over 8,000. Going by the government guidelines, it needs at least 100.
The Public Hearing on Health Care, Anganwadi, Pension And Disability Services, organised by the Alternative Law Forum and Jana Arogya Andolana Karnataka on Thursday saw people tabling their problems before the authorities, but going back with no answers. Health Department statistics show that the area, with an estimated population of a lakh, has 1,285 children below 6 years, of whom 18 are ‘severe acute malnourished’ (SAM).
The government has not surveyed the area properly. Statistics from the Health Department show that the area, with an estimated population of a lakh, has only 1,285 children below six, of whom only 18 are ‘severe acute malnourished’ (SAM).
The area’s sole Urban Family Welfare Centre and Maternity Home is run by the BBMP with skeletal staff as doctors avoid postings there.
Residents allege anganwadi helpers demand bribes from pregnant women seeking help. When Shabana (25), in the fourth month of her first pregnancy, visited the closest anganwadi in Shakkarmandi, helpers demanded a bribe of `50 to register her name.
“Shabana’s identity card had her mother’s address so she could register her name only at the Indirapuram anganwadi. She is eligible for monthly rations. But there is no fixed time when rations arrive, so she checks every day,” said her relative Salma.
Anganwadis say they can’t cope with the numbers. “Each anganwadi can have only 77 beneficiaries, including children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. But there are way more people who want to register. We do not have the infrastructure to handle them,” said Geetha, supervisor of three anganwadis in the area.
Even if people have to seek treatment for their children outside the primary health centre, they need BPL cards, which entitle them to nutritional support from other hospitals. But they aren’t able to get those cards easily either.
At the end of ten testimonies, NGOs and lawyers’ collectives presented a set of recommendations to the government, demanding better facilities for the sick, disabled and the young.
Authorities from the Health, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Departments and the Karnataka Human Rights Commission assured participants their issues would be addressed soon.
Gynaec by Monday
Officials from the Health Department said a gynaecologist would be appointed at the maternity home in DJ Halli by Monday.
“The post is lying vacant for over nine months. We have a patient load of over 30 a day at the Urban Family Welfare Centre and 80 to 100 delivery cases a day at the maternity home from Monday and Friday. We depend on contract doctors from the Ulsoor referral centre to treat these cases,” said a health officer.
She declared phone numbers of the hospital staff would be displayed outside the health centre so that patients could call the authorities to get their problems redressed. “We will also replenish the essential drugs at the centres by next month,” she said.
Bangalore Urban district Disability Welfare Officer G Mohan said the department would soon conduct a survey to count disabled children and adults in DJ Halli.
Seema (25) has four daughters between one and five years. Her husband Omar Siddiqui is a coolie and the family lives in Eidgah Mohalla in DJ Halli. She narrated her ordeals when she sought treatment at the primary health centre and described how she had to spend over `2,000 where the treatment was supposed to be free.
“I had to even buy glucose from a private medical store. The PHC does not have facilities for blood testing and scanning. But people at the hospital did not tell me I could get these tests done for free at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital. They sent me to private hospitals where I paid `550 for a scan and `150 for an anaemia test after delivery,” she said.
Seema said her son Firdous’ birth certificate still does not have a name as the authorities said it would remain blank unless she paid `250. “Firdous was identified as severely malnourished at the anganwadi, but we still don’t have a BPL card. I have already filled a form and paid `300, including `150 for the papers, but I don’t have a card yet,” she said.
People of the area also demanded that antenatal care should be provided free of cost at the health centre, including the tests and the consumables, reagents be supplied regularly.
“All pending birth certificates should be issued in a month. Anganwadis must also be equipped to take care of disabled children and the pension for disabled people must be revised as Rs 1,000 is not enough,” said the recommendations.
Appoint doctors at government primary health centres and maternity homes
Provide treatment and medicines free
Hike pension for disabled people (now Rs 1,000 a month)
Issue birth certificates without extorting money