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Now, doctors take tribal language test

Ranchi July 1: “Aendra manja, aekase lagei?”

In Kurukh, the language spoken widely among the Oraons, it means “what’s happened, how’s your health?” It is also the standard opening line for doctors world-wide.

Now, government doctors in Jharkhand looking for speedy promotions from this year onwards will need to answer an exam on any four chosen languages spoken by Santhali, Mundari, Oraon and Ho tribes.

Based on the premise that a doctor, especially those in primary health centres of far-flung districts, can understand patients’ ailments better if he or she speaks their language, knowing at least one tribal tongue was mandated under Jharkhand Health Services (Recruitment, Promotions and other service conditions) Rules 2010.

But, the first tribal language exam for doctors who joined government services in or after 2011 will be held only in 2014, a delay neither the health department nor the autonomous board of revenue, the highest appellate body for state employees headed by member secretary A.K. Pandey, can satisfactory explain.

The board, which conducts various kinds of departmental exams via the central examination committee, has recently been asked by the health department to hold the tribal language test for medicos for the year 2013.

“Yes, the doctors will have to appear in any one of the four tribal language papers,” Ram Kumar Sinha, health department deputy secretary, told The Telegraph.

However, even though the board and health department functionaries confirmed the exam would be held soon this year, the actual date hasn’t been fixed.

Board officials said departmental examinations help in “career progression”, otherwise simply known as promotions.

An entry-level medical doctor can progress to medical officer, medical officer in-charge and so on, right up to becoming a civil surgeon or a health department official.

In erstwhile Bihar, any gazetted officer posted in Chotanagpur and Santhal regions, were to take exams in the four tribal languages Santhali, Mundari, Oraon (Kurukh) and Ho.

“When Jharkhand was created, we inherited the rule,” said Meena Thakur, deputy secretary in the board of revenue. However, in an oversight, the tribal language exam was not applicable for government doctors till 2010.

But now that the rule is in force and will be implemented, government doctors by and large have hailed the move.

Dr Ajit Kumar, a doctor posted at a state-run health centre in Khunti, said: “Communication between the doctor and patient is a must. Any committed doctor will say so. A doctor speaking in Hindi and a patient responding in, say, Santhali, isn’t an ideal situation.”