In the beginning of February, The Morung Express carried two stories on the status of healthcare and ensuing difficulties for the people of Kengjung village in remote Tuensang district.
For those who missed out, Kengjung is one of the many Naga villages that remain cut off the healthcare circuit to date. About 70 km from the nearest town (Noklak, which has a Community Healthcare Centre), citizens of Kengjung have seen 15 or more people in the village die due to the lack of medical attention in 2015 alone. The village remains increasingly isolated from healthcare centres also due to inaccessibility—landslides are all too common.
Women and children are the first to bear the brunt of this negligence. One of the stories covered the plight of a man who watched his wife bleed to death post child delivery. There was no way to reach any health facility and older women would not touch her fearing ‘transmission’ of whatever plagued the dying woman.
What was plaguing the woman, whose children will grow up without a mother and her husband without the love of his partner, is definitely communicable and will continue to plague people in rural Nagaland. It is called apathy, corruption and misgovernance.
And before the blame is shifted to suit the politics of the times, the foundation for these diseases were laid out by all chief ministers, their cabinet, the members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, the elephantine bureaucracy and the tribal councils that have ever been a part of Nagaland State functioning.
In the past few years, while many private health centres and practitioners have extended a helping hand, the first institution to hold the failure of healthcare in Nagaland to legal accountability was the Naga Mothers’ Association. From 2010-2015, informed the NMA, 12 maternal deaths and 251 infant deaths were recorded at the Dimapur District Hospital alone. In the other districts, even the data to analyse the condition does not properly exist.
21 Public Interest Litigations were filed through the Indian justice system to seek accountability on women’s reproductive rights in Nagaland State. This gains significance because the State has never seen a public outcry against the failing healthcare system—unable to affect power politics, dying women, children, men or the elderly in rural areas have not been found deserving of martyrdom.
In October 2015, Nagaland’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare admitted that despite 566 health care facilities in the State, the health care delivery system is ‘far from satisfactory.’ While there may be many qualified doctors in the State, few are willing to go to remote healthcare centres they are posted in. Again, reasons are many from lack of care to lack of infrastructure to house outstation doctors and nurses.
Nagaland State and the people who reside in it are in a desperate need to put healthcare, education, sanitation, communication and a series of such on track. For many in the rural areas, particularly of eastern Nagaland, time is ticking on lives affected by apathetic governance. It is time that Nagaland is relieved of constant politicking with activists diverting their energy towards creating a healthy system of governance.
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