The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Health no hurdle to merit
- Government agrees to sponsor two ailing but brilliant students

For the past year-and-a-half, he has had to keep a weekly date with chemotherapy in his battle against blood cancer. He has also had to fight his failing health to study for his Madhyamik exams. But that hasn’t stopped him from scoring over 92 per cent, with six letters.

Sixteen-year-old Utsav Kumar and seven other bravehearts like him are among the unsung heroes of Madhyamik and Higher Secondary (HS) 2003. They have all slogged on towards their academic goals against every odd.

And the efforts of two, recognised by the state, will now be rewarded. The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has decided to sponsor the education of two of the eight outstanding students, Utsav and Tanusree Basu.

The duo caught the eye of Asok Bhattacharya, minister for urban development and municipal affairs, during an Independence Day function at a Salt Lake hospital, at which eight such students were felicitated for their good showing in the exams.

Bhattacharya, who was present at the Subodh Mitra Cancer Hospital on August 15, later said: “When I learnt about the outstanding results these children have achieved, despite their illnesses, I thought we must do something for them. I have assured two of them (with the highest marks) that the government will take care of their education.”

Bhattacharya discussed the matter with his colleagues before taking this decision and now, the chief minister is learnt to be keen on meeting the students. “The government’s help could never have been more timely. The minister (Bhattacharya) told me that he would take them to meet the chief minister soon,” said director of the hospital A. Mukherjee.

Utsav, who scored the highest among the eight students felicitated on I-Day, has to first undergo preliminary treatment for “acute lymphatic leukaemia” for two years, at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh. This will be followed by periodic check-ups. But all this cannot slow Utsav down in his drive to be a doctor.

“I want to be a specialist in cancer and help thousands of patients like myself. I am determined to do well,” said Utsav. His father, Amitabha Kumar, is not sure whether he can afford Utsav’s expensive medical education, but is equally determined to overcome the odds.

Like Utsav, Tanusree, a thallasaemia patient wants to grow up to become a doctor. She secured 76 percent marks in higher secondary this year and was surprised at all the attention. “People look down upon us and it is nice to hear that people speak highly about us now,” she said. Every 21 days, Tanusree has to go to a hospital for transfusion and rest for the next few days at home.

Apart from the duo, there are others like Prajesh Pal, who scored over 74 percent marks in Madhyamik this year, but could have achieved more if he was not taken seriously ill, days before the examination. “He also needs an expensive injection apart from four units of blood, which we cannot afford. This perhaps has caused a hormonal imbalance and he has not grown up as other boys of his age,” says his mother Rita Pal.

The government’s decision to help six of the eight students with best treatment facilities has brought tears of joy to the eyes of Rina Mondol, mother of Subhankar Mondol, another Thallasaemia patient. For the likes of Somnath Aich, Debashree Ram, Supratik Mukherjee and Sayantan Banerjee, free treatment will take care of their problems. “We are considering free facilities for them at our hospital,” declared Mukherjee.

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