The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thousands throng free polio camp

Six-year-old Sonali Kumari, 13-year-old Absar Aziz of Patna, 11-year-old Reba Nandi and 15-year-old Raju Shaw of Hooghly share a dream. They want to get rid of polio and enjoy life, like any other child.

Like these four children, more than 1,000 polio victims of different age groups have come from various places to attend the free polio corrective surgery camp at Lions Orthopaedics Hospital and Research Centre, a wing of B. Murarka Outdoor Hospital at Ranikuthi, in south Calcutta.

The camp is being organised by the Lions Club of North Calcutta and the Lions Club of Greater Calcutta from May 3 to 7.

It is attended by a team of doctors led by orthopaedic surgeon G. Jagadish, director of the Sri Balaji Institute of Surgery Rehabilitation and Research for Disabled, Tirupati, and the centre’s own orthopaedic surgeons.

Virendra Gupta, general secretary of the hospital, said this was the seventh camp being organised. Patients come from all over the country, and Bangladesh as well.

First, doctors check the patient thoroughly. Then, the treatment begins. Either the doctor prescribes drugs, recommends surgery or asks the patient to go to Tirupati for better treatment.

“Everything is free. Even if a patient needs to go to Tirupati, that cost, too, is borne by us,” Gupta said. As in previous years, this time, too, about 400 patients are expected to be operated on.

G. Jagadish said since 1983, he has conducted more than 50,000 operations, of which many were done in the south Calcutta hospital itself.

“However, I should say that ever since the government has taken up the pulse polio programme, the number of polio-affected children is rapidly declining. This time, we have only two such cases and the hospital authorities have informed the state health department,” Jagadish said. The first camp was held in 1994.

The organisation has been working on the camp for a long time. For the past two months, they have gone around announcing the dates in the villages of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Orissa and other states.

Usually, the organisers proceed to remote villages and make the announcements over microphones and distribute leaflets. In certain places, some of the volunteers who go around making the announcements have to face people who refuse to believe that everything at the camp and later is absolutely free.

An optimistic J.M. Bhandari, president of the hospital, said the organisers were trying their best to get the right equipment so that there would be no need for patients to go as far as Tirupati. “There are some patients who find it really difficult to travel such a long distance. So, the sooner we get these instruments the better,” he said.

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