- Rajesh Tyagi; 9 March 2009
With one more death reported from Sabarkantha District in Nothern Gujarat, due to the epidemic of Hepatitis-B, the total tally on human lives has touched upon 65, while more than 200 still struggle for life in different hospitals; and still many more casualties may occur in the days to come.
While the disaster was on its peak, continuing to take the toll upon the lives of common people, the saffron brigades of the extreme right wing Party and Government led by Narendra Modi in Gujarat, were busy in moral policing upon the youngsters on Valentine day. This disaster, which in the first instance appeared to be the act of the nature, in fact was purely man made and was the result of gross and deliberate negligence of the state.
On 2nd February 2009, one after another three cases of Hepatitis-B infection, were reported in a nursing home in Modasa Town, north of Gujarat. More cases were reported within couple of days in the town, showing quick spread of the disease. The state machine, however, continued to sleep over the issue, for about two weeks, awaiting as usual, for the moment when the disease would subside by itself. The disease, however, in the meantime, continued to spread further in Sabarkantha, around Modasa town and even to the city of Ahmedabad, taking proportions of virtual epidemic. It was only after the media reports over the issue, created panic among the public and furore against the government, that the authorities had to swing into some action. Medical teams were despatched to the affected regions, but only to conduct survey, instead of aiding the people to fight it. By the time the government really thought of sending medical teams equipped with the anti-virus vaccine etc., the deadly virus had spread even further, exploding in alarming proportions. By then, more than five dozen lives were destroyed.
This, however, did not deter the Health Minister of the State Jaynarayan Vyas, from boasting that the situation was under control and that 225 medical teams were already at work in 115 villages to fight the epidemic. The villagers, however, refuted this stance, saying that no medical aid was at all sent to the rural interior in the district.
Apart from the 65 lives already lost, more than 200 remain in hospitals struggling with life and many more infected with the deadly virus which they would carry for rest of their lives, forcing them to be on constant red alert, every moment. The deadly virus of Hepatitis-B, largely unknown in advanced countries, is at home in all backward countries of the world, where common people, mostly poor, are trapped by it with ease, through contamination of water or negligence of medicos. Hepatitis-B is a retro-virus, deadliest of all hitherto known viruses. After getting itself intercepted in the DNA of the lever cells of humans, it causes inflammation of liver leading to high fever, which more than often results in death. Even those who could manage to survive, upon costly treatment and vaccines, harbour ‘Hbs Ag’ antigen for whole of their life, becoming prone for Hepato-Cellular Carcinoma, a virulent form of liver cancer. Though well aware about this fatal nature of the disease, the government first permitted it to hold the ground and then to spread at convenience.
Costly vaccines to counteract this disease, are though regularly purchased by the governments, but only on papers, while supplies in bulk are diverted to open market, to make huge money out of it.
What was revealed during the investigations that followed was more horrific. It brought to fore the real horror story of capitalism, as to how the isolated cases of disease erupted and could turn into an epidemic of such proportions!
It transpired that all those who caught the deadly infection of Hepatitis-B, had recently visited one or the other hospital or nursing home, where drugs were applied to them through syringes. It came to be revealed then that these syringes were, in fact, recycled after collecting from the garbage, and were put to reuse, with impunity. This recycling was a whole industry in Gujarat, working under the auspices of the state authorities and the hospitals and nursing homes in Gujarat were the real hub for consumption of this recycled stuff. Tonnes of such stuff was being recycled and reused in the hospitals, under the nose of the authorities and with their collusion. It is important to note that the law mandates compulsory destruction of these syringes and needles through incinerators, which apparently was not being done. The intentional laxity and collusion on the part of the state authorities with those who filled their coffers with the money made from this unlawful business, permitted the disaster to happen. Hundreds of tons of this stuff, collected from the garbage and then recycled, was recovered from the stores of many hospitals and nursing homes. Few arrests were made to hush up the matter and to pacify the people. However, not a single official has been indicted so far.
The catastrophe was thus man made and a result of criminal negligence of state towards the common people. The right wing government, which takes pride in indulging in moral policing over the society, turning it in a saffron ghetto for the common people, utterly failed to curb the corruption of its officials and to take care of even the basic civic amenities for the people. It remains in nexus with those who are responsible for devastation of the people through diseases and epidemics.
The private profiteers and state authorities in collusion with each other are instrumental in creating this havoc upon the human lives. The pro-capitalist governments and their officials, instead of enforcing the law and taking care of welfare of the people, help the profiteers to generate more and more money, even at the cost of health and lives of common people. The diseases and epidemics to which poor fell prey in routine, germinate on the soil of the socio-economic system of capitalism as a whole. Common people are the real sufferers under the yoke of this degenerated system of profits and market, where health and life of people counts nothing more than a commodity, and would continue to suffer unless they overthrow this system through their common struggle.