The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bitter lives under brew shadow
- Ravaged and in a world without hope

Bharnobari (Kalchini), Feb. 9: The block medical officer of Kalchini today walked into protests at Bharnobari.

“Look at how you treat us,” shouted Manbahadur Chhetri, the convener of the operating and management committee (OMC), pointing to Lala Jhole, 36, and his wife, Kousila. The couple lay huddled in pain in their hut with burn injuries.

Last Tuesday, Kousila had a dizzy spell and fell on the earthen coal stove where a handful of rice was cooking. Her sari caught fire and when her husband rushed to the rescue, he too got burnt, said Suresh Gurung, a relative of the Jholes.

“We took them to the block primary health centre where doctors referred them to the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital, but they have no money for treatment,” he added.

Dinesh Biswas, the block medical officer, had been sent by the Jalpaiguri chief medical officer of health on an assessment recce after there were reports of 28 deaths in the garden in the past 13 months. The estate has been closed since December 2005.

Yesterday, too, a worker from this garden died in the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital from “severe anaemia”.

“One of the reasons for the deaths in the garden is malnutrition,” admitted Biswas.

On his instruction, the Jholes, and Mamata Mangor, 22, who had a complicated pregnancy, were sent once again to the block hospital, 15 km from here, in an ambulance belonging to the garden. The RSP gram panchayat pradhan of the area, Madan Routh, donated 15 litres of petrol for the vehicle.

The same hospital had sent the couple back, saying that the available infrastructure was not enough for the treatment. “I was not aware of the case, but now, since I know about it, they will be treated under my supervision,” said Biswas “We have set up a medical sub-centre here which is open for three days a week. We will now keep it open on all days.” Biswas also examined the children and workers suffering from anaemia. More than five children and six women are on the brink of death due to malnutrition, alleged Routh.

John Philip Khalko, the saha-sabhadhipati of Jalpaiguri zilla parishad, was seen addressing the union leaders in the garden. “There are many problems in this estate and the zilla parishad is taking up schemes to provide work to the labourers. We have received Rs 25 crore under the 100-day employment guarantee scheme, which will be spent on abandoned and closed tea gardens,” Khalko said.

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