Scenic beauty of hills asking for healthier environment

by Anubhuti Agrawal

The findings from a study by Frances Kuo, a professor of landscape and human health, published in a research series for the National Recreational and Park Association, states that the health benefits come irrespective of other factors and, once we are deprived of green space, our health suffers dramatically. The greener environment enhances the recovery from surgery, enable and support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning and help diabetes achieve healthier blood glucose levels. This is just one side of the coin about the hilly areas, the world and words, both depicts different reality. Nestled in the lap of Himalayas, Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh with the aim of ensuring development in the hills, which comprises of 88% of the state’s geographical area. Out of 13 districts of the state 9 are completely in the hills while two are partially hill. According to official data, around 35 lakhs out of 1.1 crore population live in the hilly region. But do they actually live or they just survive? When we go into case studies of these hilly districts of Uttarakhand, a certain unbelievable thing along with the calmness and serenity of hills comes into existence. There is more to it, that thrill is something beyond your imagination, there is no assurance of the very next moment of your life, and even you can’t get any sort of help or aid. But this is not the end; the situation is even more pathetic on one side . In Two regions, Garhwal and Kumaon enclosing the 13 districts within Uttarakhand, there is a marked inequality between the hills and the plains. The districts in the hills palpably lag behind. Therefore, a well-thought development strategy is needed to reduce the gap between these two regions.

On shifting the limelight to the rural areas, the real truth comes into the picture, for instance, one such district, ‘Almora’, a district with 9 tehsils and a huge population density of 198 inhabitants per km sq. the town of Almora is situated over a horse saddle shaped ridge of a mountain with a handful of tourist attractions. “In these hills, Nature’s hospitality eclipses all that man can ever do. The enchanting beauty of Himalayas, their bracing climate and the soothing vegetation that envelops you, leave nothing more to be desired. But as it is said “it is the health that is the real wealth, and not the pieces of gold and silver.” More than half of the total population depends on agriculture for their livelihood and the economy is predominantly dependent on it. However, the land holdings are small and fragmented. This is what the tale of wealth is, but when it comes to health, its tale leaves every other person in amazement.

The condition of health facilities, Almora have approx. three to four government hospitals, namely Govind Singh Mehra Govt. Hospital, Near Bus Stand, Ranikhet, PT. Hargobind Pant, District hospital, Govardhan Tiwari Base Hospital, Victor Mohan Joshi, Female Hospital Chok Bazaar Almora, where a common rural person engaged in agriculture can go for aid. But the main fact is the number of doctors, where it should be 245; there are only 115 doctors with no proper facilities of CT scan and MRI. Officials states that the government quota of medicine, which is supposed to be distributed for free of cost to the patients are provided either when they are expired or doesn’t reach at all. In case , if one needs any medical facility then the option available is either to visit one from the handful of expensive private hospitals or move to nearby cities like Haldwani or Bareilly and like always the last option is Delhi which is surely out of reach of a farmer. People are subjected either to manage their living only with such facilities or they just need to keep on continuing their hopes based on the promises made by the government and political parties during elections. It is not like that the number of doctors to be appointed or the machines to be brought are not promised, but they are only assured and never seen, even the doctors are unwilling to serve due to improper infrastructure. Is it expected from the people to digest everything wrong happening to their money which is been paid through taxes? The problem is noticed and highlighted however, it is ignored at the same time, even the business newspapers like Business Standards or Economic Times threw some light on malfunctioning or construction of medical college, which is proving like a dream looming in mirage to give out doctors, continuously since 2011 and also highlights the delay in batch of MBBS which was to be started in 2017. The construction in still “in progress”. If we look into the local newspapers , the columns are filled with protests like “Badal swath seva ke khilaf dharna aaj” by one or other NGO or group like “Jan swastha sangharsh morcha”, in response to which othercolumns are seen,like a local daily ‘Amar Ujala’ on 4 June 2014  printed a statement of governor Dr. Ajeej Kureshi “Parvatiya shetro me swastha seva lo majbut karne ki jarurat”, this is just one, if we move to another level , it could be seen in the same local daily dated 26 may 2014, another words of MLA Mr. Manoj Tiwari, “Swastha seva sudrikaran ko pharmacist de yogdaan”.

This is not it, we have a plenty of such columns coming every alternate day, talking about officials, they feel like have completed their duties and responsibilities, but to the public, this is a lot more to the people sitting in the hope of “Acche Din” That very point where the duty of our government, for the people, ends or it is that from where the journey should actually begin. The columns and headlines are speaking since 2011, on being compared, what is seen, not even a bit of change till now. The only differences which are seen, are the rise in the number of delayed patients, number of protests, number of improper or late deliveries, number of deaths and a lot more.

Lack of healthcare facilities was another reason for the migration of people to other cities. Abandoned villages are giving Uttarakhand a handful of ghost villages. Healthcare centers that have opened are blighted by a severe lack of medical professionals and services more often turning them as referral centers for hospitals in cities like Delhi. The lack of trained professionals and presence of referral hospitals has caused the surge in migration to fulfill the medical needs. The healthcare system of India depends almost on imported western models. It is mostly services based on urban hospitals. Uttarakhand is doing well on the economic growth front. But, this growth has restricted itself to three plain districts of the state. The ten hill districts are the ones left wanting with respect to the growth enjoyed by the state.

Far from the madness of city life, a child lies limply on a hospital bed, suspended somewhere between the brutality of the sick sad humor called  pseudo – democracy, watching the ceiling and wondering will he be forgotten like the other patients sharing that inhospitable room or will he survive and fulfill his dreams. This is the story of every child in all the villages, small towns, and cities across India. Every year and its 5-year plans, the government announces health benefits and promises to strengthen the health and system. And every year hundreds of children and adults end up facing a life full of uncertainty. It seems that the current health care system just serves the growing needs of metropolitan cities, but it is somehow ironical as it plays a crucial joke by being accessible only to those who can afford it. But, does that imply on a child being born in a farmer’s family not able to live his life to the fullest with all the constitutional rights just like the one being born at that very moment whose father is working in MNC in Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore?

Without getting any single thought, the response is a very straightforward “No”. “Stay Healthy”, “Live Happy and Healthy” is not true just for the madness of cities but it should also for the beautiful and hardworking towns or villages. This does not mean of getting “Apollo” or “Fortis” established in the scenic hills of Uttarakhand. The growth has restricted itself to the three plain districts of the state. The ten hill districts are the one which is left wanting with respect to the growth enjoyed by the state. these all urges the government to get back on the right track, where it works “for the people” giving democracy its actual meaning, just by making the system run too smooth so that the government hospitals getting the appropriate number of doctors, nurses, lab attendants, specialists, proper equipment and machines, the medicine supplies of the govt. quota reaching their proper destination on time. And above all, not getting the funds burnt under the vicious cycle of a hierarchical power system, instead of getting them utilized in a manner and serving the people residing in ‘far located rural areas’.

Yes, there is still hope, but the govt. needs to work harder. It needs to implement a clearly defined policy with a set of guidelines that will aid in ensuring the sustainability of rural healthcare plans. This will help in attracting private investment in the rural healthcare segment including telemedicine services, remote diagnostics, and operation of other rural services. Above all, rural healthcare needs to be declared as a ‘priority’ growth area by both central govt. and state govt. but it really needs to be taken care of, and not just played with.

“Successive state governments have failed to make policies focusing on the hills. Other Himalayan states have similar issues then how can Uttarakhand not adopt good points from other hill states?” questions Anil Joshi, a chairperson of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization, a non-governmental organization. Former bureaucrat S S Pangati feels Uttarakhand needs to adopt an economic model like that of Himachal Pradesh. But, who needs to adopt it, whose steps are needed to be put forward to adopt the model and give Uttarakhand, a new transformed identity, people at various dignified posts dealing not only with political issues and concerns but also with the “Hopes and Dreams” of ‘’the people ‘at least need to give it a thought!

 

 

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