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Snakebite blow to midday meal

Around 24 schoolchildren, mostly belonging to the primitive Sabar tribe, had to go hungry on Thursday as the only cook at their primary school in Gutia, 15km from Jamshedpur, was bitten by a snake.

Durgi Sabar (30) is said to be in a critical condition at MGM Medical College and Hospital in Sakchi, where she is yet to be administered antivenin because the lone state-run heal hub in Kolhan region allegedly has no stock of the lifesaving injection.

According to Nirmal Kumar Bhagat, the only teacher at the school, the cook was bitten around 10.30am when she was carrying firewood to prepare the midday meal.

“I saw the snake slither away. It was a poisonous one. Durgi shrieked and collapsed,” said the teacher who arranged for a vehicle and took the cook to hospital, half an hour’s drive from Gutia, by 12.30pm.

Bhagat claimed that doctors at the emergency gave him a slip containing the name of the antivenin and asked him to fetch it from outside.

“I told them I had no money and that a state hospital must treat the poor for free, especially if the patient is from a primitive tribe. To that a doctor said, ‘let’s see’, and left. Durgi was not attended to for two hours after which she was given a bottle of saline only,” he said.

The teacher expressed concern for young children, 21 of whom belonged to the Sabar tribe. “Lunch is served by noon, but the mishap took place before that. The children went home hungry.”

A senior medical officer of MGM said Durgi would be given the antivenin as and when required. “The patient needs to be kept under observation. We have to note reactions caused by the snakebite,” he said, on the condition of anonymity.

He added that they had “arranged for vials” after they came to know that the patient belonged to the Sabar tribe.