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Voices at war with venom

It is a new-age partnership, trying to resolve an age-old affliction. Workers of Canning Yuktibadi Sangstha, a voluntary organisation helping snakebite patients mainly in South and North 24-Parganas for 15 years, have joined hands with doctors from Nil Ratan Sircar Hospital to combat the everyday problem that has taken more than 700 lives in the past two-and-a-half years. Unofficial estimates peg the death toll at much higher.

A workshop at NRS Hospital recently brought about 150 doctors and activists together, with both sides exchanging notes on their knowledge and experiences. The fact is that the hospital receives about 1,000 snakebite patients annually, with no less than five cases daily during monsoon months.

Dr Alok Ghosh, departmental head of medicine and the major force behind this first-of-its-kind ‘get-together’, feels that such meetings are vital for young doctors, who will soon face these problems in real life.

“Our boys, many of whom come from the urban areas, rarely get the chance to see a snake, leave alone being exposed to snakebites. And exposure of this kind will do them a world of good when they encounter a snakebite patient, probably in a remote village. Armed with the right information, they will be able to react to an emergency and administer the appropriate treatment on the spot,” says Ghosh.

The attending junior doctors could not agree more. Dodul Mondal, a final-year MBBS student, feels there is a “need for greater exposure”, as the interaction with the Canning Yuktibadi Sangstha helped them “learn a lot about snakes and snakebites”.

Krishna Sardar, secretary of the Canning organisation, feels that such an interface help them “take the problems of remote villages to the doorsteps of city doctors”. They have conducted numerous workshops with victims, ojhas and quacks, before coming to the heart of Calcutta and meeting doctors.

The Canning Yuktibadi Sangstha is planning to start a detailed survey soon on snakes and snakebites in the Sunderbans. Dr Kesab Sinha Roy, a senior doctor with NRS Hospital, adds that they “will continue to work together in future” in an effort to curb a menace “of alarming proportions” that is “somehow never highlighted”.

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