We were traveling in the neighboring state visiting friends. And listening to friends share stories of contexts and challenges.
We heard about patients traveling 100km or more in search of accessible and trust worthy health care. We heard about many maternal deaths in villages. We heard about rupture uterus’s presenting to institutions every other week. We saw in small clinic 7 cerebral malaria patients all with Hb less than 5 or 6 gm/dl. We heard about 80% institutional deliveries of which only 20% only happens in institutions, rest at home, the data cooked up for reimbursement of health care staff under NHM. We heard about early data from a study on malnutrition where 80% of kids are completely off the road to health chart – they needed to create a separate chart (weight was off the basic minimum). We heard about the need of a bribe of Rs 3000/- to get blood from a state blood bank. We heard about large numbers of patients with partially treated TB landing up in these clinics and institutions. We heard about single drug therapy for TB given by private quacks. And the traditional healers and swamis on a roll in the changed religo-political context robbing unsuspecting poor of money for promise of cure for all diseases. We heard about elderly waiting for hours in bank for money, to be told to use cards which they do not know how to use. We heard about agents who help these unsuspecting elders and loot their money.
The alternate narratives one normally does not hear in media.
In between these conversations we switched on TV. I heard the news of Bullet trains, huge statues bring commissioned, cashless economy, Digital India discussions. The dominant narrative of our nation.
I was left wondering – is it the same nation that I was hearing about?
We heard about proactive religious polarization being facilitated in these villages. We heard recordings of hate speeches and planned re conversions. We heard stories of money being provided to people to return to their original faith as perceived by leaders though the original was not the perceived religion. We heard about poor facing physical assault and abuse for not aligning to leadership expectations.
At the same time in the media I heard about inclusive development, tolerance and how great a nation is ours. A role model for other nations as a global power.
I was left wondering, is what I heard part of the planned new role model nation?
We talked about land laws changing by which the poor are losing access to their lands. We talked about regulations stifling ownership of property of well-meaning voluntary organizations. We talked about land being taken over by the big corporations for mining. And the many inspections and scrutiny by the babus using the renewed regulatory frameworks and life being made challenging for voluntary organizations.
Just before leaving for station I asked this pointed question to one friend. What do you think will be the context 10 years from now? He said in the last 10 years things have only worsened. And this context remains there will not be any of poor around. What he meant was, they would either die or will be eased out of their contexts by the dominant forces.
I was reminded of a TV program I saw the previous day where a political leader was asked a pointed question about a tribal woman’s death due to starvation. He said these are stray incidents and are a blot and will soon change.
Maybe he meant these blots the narratives of these weak and marginalized will be soon blotted away by a dominant narrative, the narrative of a powerful nation. The strong wiping out the weak.
Discouraged I turned to the Good Book where I read “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.”
Written 100s of years back, still relevant for the context we saw recently but was there hope? Yes there is because of a grand narrative from God as we see below.
“He (God) saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.”
I hope I can be that man who will work alongside and for that grand narrative, touching a few lives that I might come across.
NB – I need to acknowledge that as educationally and economically privileged, I am part of the dominant narrative though ideologically different from the dominant narrative.