This Article is From Jun 21, 2009

Aila aftermath: Battle for survival in Sunderbans


While the West Bengal government launched an armed march to wrench Lalgarh in West Midnapore district away from Maoists control, miles away in the Sunderbans another desperate battle is being fought -- a battle for survival.

More than three weeks after Cyclone Aila, the crisis of adequate drinking water and unhygienic conditions has led to a pandemic of blood dysentery and diarhhoea in the area.

The situation further aggravated by quack doctors in the absence of sufficient medical doctors.

After eight days and attending to almost 200 patients a day Dr Palit suffering from exhaustion had to be forcefully evacuated.

"The scenario is very grim. Quack doctors doing what they want," Palit said.

Quack doctors are thriving with an acute shortage of licensed medical doctors in the area. Twelve-year-old Raju Rathar suffering from blood dysentery is a victim of a quack and he shows no signs of improvement even after five days of treatment.

They have come to the island of Mollahkhali where there is Primary Health Centre overflowing with patients. But here too, locals allege the government doctors of moonlighting.

"They are in hospital from 10 am to 2 pm and at other times they are in private chamber," said Tapash Kumar Mandal, a doctor.

Three weeks after Cyclone Aila, patients continue to stream into this centre under the Gosaba block, But there is no electricity and the number of doctors inadequate.

While two-year-old Paritosh Mandal is tasting a drop of water in as many days, four other sick members including his mother are not so lucky.

Outside the health centre, lies the saline water pools where mosquitoes breed. And the people here are standing as the mute testimony of breakdown of administration that has failed to respond to a natural disaster in the Sundarbans.