The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bangla patients pop prison pill

Balurghat, Jan. 24: Infiltration seems to be the shortcut to medical aid.

Forty-seven-year-old Altab Hussain breached the border and crossed over to this side in the hope that he would be picked up by the BSF, sent to jail and subsequently to hospital. Hussain’s task, however, became difficult when none of the security forces, neither police nor the BSF, “spotted” him when he crossed the border at Hili, 26 km from here. Finding no other option, Hussain turned himself over at the Balurghat police station a few weeks ago. From then on, he has been at the district hospital here, being treated for an ailing heart.

“I had come to the jail several months ago (under another name). Recently, I started having chest pains again and visited the Dinajpur district hospital in Bangladesh. Doctors there wanted to refer me to Dhaka Medical College. But there, I would have had to shell out Taka 2 lakh (a little less than Rs 1.3 lakh). I am a mere fish trader and can’t afford to spend so much. The best option, I decided, would be to go back to an Indian jail,” said Hussain.

He added that the doctors here said he is responding to treatment.

Fatema Bibi’s case is a bit different. The mentally-challenged woman was pushed into India by her relatives and is currently under treatment at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri.

Most of these infiltrators go back at the end of a three-month sentence. Till their return to Bangladesh, all expenses are borne by the Indian government, contrary to the thousands who go without free medical aid in rural Bengal.

Last week, another Bangladeshi infiltrator, Saifur Rehman, was released and sent back to Bangladesh. Jail sources said he was suffering from frequent bouts of headaches for which he underwent a CT scan at NBMCH.

Records show that of the 474 Bangladeshis at the jail here, 112 have received medical attention (see chart).

The superintendent of the district jail, M Guin, said: “We are duty-bound to arrange for treatment as soon as a prisoner or undertrial falls ill. In any case, a medical check is mandatory for all inmates — Bangladeshi or otherwise — sent here from the court.”

He admitted that many people from the adjoining Dinajpur, Naogaon and Joypurhat districts of Bangladesh entered the country and courted arrest for free medical attention.

Hussain, Guin added, was a prime example.

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