Burdwan, Aug. 28: The Eastern Coalfields Limited hospital diagnosed Sudeb Bauri as suffering from leprosy five years ago. He lost his job because of the “ailment” and had to survive a shunning society.
Bauri, 45, a pump operator at ECL’s Central Kajora mines, rejoined work a year ago. For four years before that, he was jobless and a pariah in his own neighbourhood because of a faulty diagnosis.
Today, he filed a case against the company with the district consumer redressal forum, demanding Rs 14 lakh.
The Purulia Leprosy Mission and Calcutta’s Bangur Institute of Neurology have confirmed that he never had the disease.
“I did not suffer from leprosy. I fell ill in May 1998 and went to the company doctors when my fingers began getting bent. I was first treated at the Kajora hospital and then taken to ECL’s main hospital where the doctors diagnosed that I was suffering from leprosy,” Bauri said.
Subsequently, he was declared unfit and asked not to report for work. “I went to a doctor in Asansol who told me that I was suffering from a neurological disorder,” said Bauri.
He then went to the leprosy mission and the institute of neurology. Discharge certificates from both the institutions said he was suffering from a neurological disease and advised surgery.
“I was operated on in the neck, head and spine. After that, I recovered fully and exactly four years later, in May last year, the ECL allowed me to join work,” Bauri said.
Superintendent of the ECL Hospital B.K. Bhowmick said he was part of the medical board that declared Bauri unfit to work. “The decision was jointly arrived at and, anyway, when he was cured, we declared him fit. He joined work,” Bhowmick said.
“I lived in Pasundi in Birbhum district and used to commute from there to the Kajora mines. As word leaked out about the hospital’s diagnosis, people started avoiding me. My two sons and daughter were also not spared,” said Bauri.
The social boycott by the villagers was primitive, swift and severe. “My family members were not allowed to use water from the ponds or wells in the village. The grocer shooed them away, people refused to sell anything to us,” the motorman recalled.
“All three of us were thrown out of school. The headmaster said our father was a leprosy patient and we had to leave. We went back to Kajora and started living in a shack. My mother took to begging,” said Gautam, Bauri’s 16-year-old son, the eldest of the siblings.