The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Border bars vaccine

Cooch Behar, Jan. 5: Hamid Ali has heard about polio and was told that the government is giving medicines to ensure children do not contract the disease. But for the three years that Hamid, a resident of Dasiar Chhara enclave across the Bangladesh border in Dinhata, has been a father, he has not seen any worker come to him to give the polio dose to his two children.

Like three-year-old Zarina and a year-old Mehbooba, children in the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh are paying the price for the border dispute. While the country celebrated the success of the pulse polio immunisation programme, the little ones trapped in nowhere land had to go without the drops. Children in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India were given the dose.

Cooch Behar’s chief medical officer of health Tamasha Roy said department officials entered the Bangladeshi colonies and gave the drops to the children but they could not do so in the Indian enclaves across the border.

“Health workers visit the Bangladeshi enclaves whenever they have to administer the drops but they cannot go to the Indian enclaves because they are located across the border. We face this problem every time. The children in the Bangladeshi enclaves are given the dose on humanitarian grounds,” Roy said.

Residents of the Indian enclaves lament that they are never the beneficiaries of similar gestures. “Not just polio, we don’t get any facilities. We are citizens of no country, we don’t have any identity,” said Hamid.

His neighbour Nazrul Islam said the government should take some steps to ensure that children in Indian enclaves are not left out. “Children across the country got the dose but everyone forgot us. What crime have children in the enclaves committed that they are not being immunised against polio'” he said.

Those staying in the Bangladeshi enclaves like Nazirhat, Mashaldanga and Karla are, however, happy that their children are at least getting the dose.

“We face the same problems as those staying in the Indian enclaves. But our children get the polio dose on time. We are grateful to the health officials remembering us,” said 30-year-old Malati Burman of Karla enclave.

“In case the children have not been given the drops, we will use the BSF’s services and administer the drops in five days,” said additional district magistrate O.S. Meena.

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