How valuable is human life in God’s Own Country?

via VR JAYARAJ | KOCHI published on September 12, 2011

Keralites working in the Gulf become eloquent when speaking about the atrocities sponsors, agents and employers in the Gulf show towards migrant workers. But the death of an Odisha youth at a Kerala hospital recently proves how irresponsible God’s Own Country, particularly its health workers, can be when it comes to saving lives of poor workers from other states.

Seetu (18), a migrant worker from Odisha brought by a Malayalee agent to work in a rubber trading firm, was admitted to the Medical College Hospital in Kottayam on September 6 with critical head injuries suffered in a road accident. Instead of treating him under close observation at the ICU, the hospital authorities pushed him to the shabby Ward 14 within hours of admission.

As the agent, employer or any relative was not around to attend on the youth, another Odisha boy – obviously uneducated – became his by-stander. In the shabby ward, where ventilator or artificial respiration facility was absent, the boy was given the charge of operating the ambu-bag for keeping Seetu breathing and alive, a TV channel reported.

The by-stander boy, who kept Seetu alive through the day without moving from his side, could have fallen asleep at some moment on the night of September 6 due to fatigue caused by day-long starvation. “The boy could have ceased operating the bag or he could have kept it squeezed as he fell asleep,” said a patient who was there in Ward 14 that day.

The hospital staff found Seetu dead on his cot on the morning of September 7. “The ultimate cruelty of the hospital authorities is proved by the fact that the blood sample (collected from Seetu) was still there on the shelf by the cot waiting to be analyzed when doctors found him dead,” a report quoted a patient as saying.

The hospital authorities had no reasonable reply when asked about the incident but some tried to justify the callousness by saying that the young man was brain-dead when he was brought to the Medical College. “But then admitting him to the ward was not what the doctors should have done,” admitted an employee of the hospital.

After the death came the other part of the callousness typical of the highly unionized and irresponsible employee culture. The hospital authorities said they could not arrange for the post-death formalities, including finding the cloth to be used as shroud for the body but the agent quarreled with them when he was asked to buy it.

Finally, the charity of buying the shroud for the body was shown by the policemen on duty at the hospital. Then it was time for the various political organizations to try their hands at fishing in muddied water by taking out marches to the Medical College protesting against the callousness of the hospital authorities.

“Would this have happened to a rich Malayalee patient?” fumed Mallika, a by-stander with a patient in the hospital. “Several people had brought the condition of the (Odisha) boy to the attention of the doctors and nurses several times but nobody cared to take a look. All of them should be dismissed from service,” she said.

Kerala Health Minister Adoor Prakash, whose daughter was caught in a controversy recently for “earning” a seat for post-graduate medical course in a self0financing college by paying millions of rupees, said he had asked the Director of Medical Education to enquire into the incident.

Kerala, where native manual workers are difficult to find due to the abundance of money repatriated by Malayalee workers in the Gulf, has more than four million men and women from other states employed on low wages in various sectors. The agents who bring them make huge earnings out of the business as authorities have no proper information about these workers.

“Most of them are from Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and Paschim Banga. They are not entitled to job safety for which the Keralites hold agitations,” said a researcher in labour migration. “The police are the only people tracking them but they do that not to provide security to them but because they think most of them are criminals,” he said.

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