Pellet victims left to fend for themselves

  • Costly treatment pushes affected families to penury
  • Eviction of volunteers from SMHS hospital deprived patients of valuable assistance

On July 9 when the protests against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani spread far and wide and casualties started pouring in, various volunteer groups set up stalls at SMHS hospital to help the injured civilians and their attendants. Since the eviction of the volunteers from the hospital compound, the pellet victims have been left to fend for themselves.
At a time when the authorities failed to provide assistance in the wake of the anger against the government, the volunteers took care of the victims in every possible manner from free food to free medicines and transportation. With the improvement in the situation, the government forced the volunteers to leave the hospital.
Muhammad Sidique Kumar of Kupwara, whose son has been blinded by government forces, has spent Rs 2000 to visit SMHS hospital. His son Tahir (name changed) was scheduled to undergo surgery. As the father-son duo waited for their turn in the ward, Kumar struck up conversation with other pellet victims about how costly the treatment is getting day by day. Nodding their heads in consent, the victims shared the financial problems they have to face for their treatment.
Kumar, who had a tiff with Sumo driver who charged him 2000 rupees, says, “Nobody is thinking about us. I had to pay Rs 2000 to a Sumo driver for it was the only Sumo I could find on the day of hartal so he took undue advantage of my helplessness. I miss the volunteers. At least, they used to pick and drop us.”
Kumar, who is a mason by profession, has not been going to work since the uprising started and whatever little money he had saved all these years was spent on his son’s surgeries.
“I spent around 50000 rupees on my son in these five months. And I know I have to spend more, but there is no money in my account now,” he says.
Other pellet victims, who come from financially unstable families, share Kumar’s plight. They are not able to buy medicines and surgical equipments.
Every time, we come to the hospital for follow-up treatment, the doctors says ‘change the eye drops and ointments’. An eye drop costs around 500 rupees and in a month 15000 rupees goes on the medicines,” says Aarif Javaid, who has undergone three surgeries in his eye.
Till October volunteers would buy surgical equipments for them, but now the victims have to buy them from outside each time they are operated. “The equipments cost some 10000-30000 rupees. We are not so rich that we can afford such costly equipments,” says Aarif.
Aarif who has not regained his vision even after multiple surgeries doesn’t know how many more surgeries he may have to undergo.
And if the procedures continue to be costly, the 21-year-old boy fears, he might have to discontinue the treatment.
“I am a salesman at a shop and earn 2000 rupees a month. My father is old. His body is too weak to allow him to go for work. How can we arrange money for such costly treatment? When the NGOs were helping us, we never thought of arranging money. They would keep everything available. But since they left the government is asking us to pay for every small thing.”
Principal Government Medical College, Dr Kaiser Ahmad Koul didn’t respond to repeated calls.

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