In East UP, a Village So Backward That Access to Healthcare Is ‘Bhagwan Bharose'
There is no doctor in Son Garha, or anywhere close to it. And the village's solitary health clinic lies defunct.
Video editor: Purnendu Preetam
Near the India-Nepal border, there lies a remote village in east UP's Balrampur by the name of Son Garha. It is home to around a hundred families from the Tharu Scheduled Tribe.
In 2018, Balrampur featured in NITI Aayog's list of the 10 most backward districts of India. And Son Garha is one of Balrampur's most backward villages.
Among its biggest challenges is the difficulty to access even basic healthcare. There is no doctor in Son Garha, or anywhere close to it. The village's solitary health clinic lies defunct and in shambles.
Locals say the nearest hospital is 10 to 15 kilometres away, and with there being no pucca road from the village to these hospitals, the villagers have to cross as many as three streams, and struggle through a difficult terrain to get the sick any form of medical treatment.
Often, when the streams are flooded due to the monsoon and the path is too treacherous to cross with the patients in tow, the locals say that the sick are left to die at home. Their constant refrain to us, as we enquired about their access to healthcare, is that the fate of the sick in Son Garha is just "Bhagwan bharose", or left at the mercy of God.
The Impact of A Defunct Health Clinic, And No Pucca Road
Ram Murat, a farmer in Son Garha, tells The Quint, "The lack of road connectivity is the main cause of all our distress. Plus, the village's only health clinic hasn't seen a doctor in a long time."
Satrani, a homemaker in her late twenties, remarks, "We have never even seen the face of the clinic's doctor here." As she feeds her baby, Satrani expresses concern about the village's lack of access to healthcare.
In a nonchalant matter-of-fact way, she says, "In emergency cases, patients have to be physically picked up by a handful of people and carried across the streams and the kaccha road. In all the time that it takes, if the patient's condition worsens, then they will die, what else?"
Satrani's father-in-law, Ram Lautan, adds, "Many serious patients have passed away in our village because they couldn't be taken to hospital."
Guru Deen, a local cattle rearer, says, "It is especially difficult for us to get to a doctor or for a doctor to get to us when the streams flood in the monsoon."
When we went to check the status of the village's solitary health clinic, we found a locked room where layers and layers of dust and dirt proved that the 'clinic' had remained defunct for a long period of time.
Outside the clinic, we meet Chheddu, a local farmer. He responds with the same despondence as Satrani, Ram Lautan and others, "If we don't have the means to go to neighbouring Balapur, we die here."
'Not a Priority for the Netas'
Laxmi Niwas is an unemployed youngster in Son Garha. The 32-year-old was injured in an accident a couple of years ago while crossing one of the water streams between the village and the nearest town.
His injured leg was operated upon, but he hasn't been able to go for subsequent hospital check-ups. "With my injury, I need a vehicle to go from here to the nearest hospital. I don't have that kind of money to afford renting a vehicle and going for regular check-ups. But if our village had any medical services, I could have received some treatment here itself."
Laxmi adds, "As a result of my injury, I have not been able to find any work either. If I could become fit again, I could go out for work."
Lamenting about the status of healthcare, or rather its absence, in Son Garha, Laxmi remarks, "So many governments have come and gone, but none have fulfilled our hopes."
A pucca road, and a functional health centre, are what the locals of Son Garha are demanding. But they say the netas don't even come to their village to hear their concerns.
Ram Murat says, "No politician comes here. Even now, during election time, the candidates don't come here themselves. They send their party folks instead."
As Son Garha goes to vote on 3 March in the sixth and penultimate phase of polling in UP, will their concerns be heeded by those who come to power next? Or will they continue to be left ‘Bhagwan bharose'?
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