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– Sanjay Roy

GUWAHATI, May 6 – In a serious human rights violation in Assam, a 26-year-old pregnant Adivasi woman was first denied free blood transfusion in a Government hospital, then her entitlement under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), and now even the birth registration certificate for her newborn is being denied.

The woman in question is now running from pillar to post to get her ward his birth registration certificate, which is the first right of a new-born. It all started on April 19 when the labour pain was getting intolerable for Ranjani Sawtal in the morning hours. Her nervous husband Suresh immediately rang up for 108 ambulance service, which never appeared.

Helpless and worried, Suresh, a daily wage earner, collected all his savings and somehow hired a van to facilitate ‘quick and safe’ transport for his wife till Kanaklata Civil Hospital, Tezpur.

Reaching the hospital around 8 am from 2 No Miripathar in Balipara located around 20 kilometres away, she was first made to sit on the floor and then was taken to the operation ward where she gave birth to a baby boy. But the ordeal for this poor Adivasi family was far from being over. Doctors attending on her had recommended transfusion of two units of blood which worsened the state of affairs further for the attendants.

“There were elements who offered to provide blood for Rs3000/unit. We had no money. We asked if blood could be provided from the hospital but nothing could materialize. I was released from the hospital after few days of stay without any blood transfusion,” said Ranjani, whi1e recounting her nightmarish experience in the hospital.

Worse, the hospital staff allegedly made her sign on a piece of paper but did not even hand over the amount which she is entitled under JSY. “I did not say anything then as I wanted to get back home. But now they are asking money to even facilitate issuance of birth registration certificate for my kid,” she rued. The matter came to the light through a woman maternal health activist of PAJHRA, a Tezpur-based NGO after which the latter is planning to report the gross maternal rights violation at the higher level.

“Denying blood to pregnant women is a serious human rights violation. Under the ambitious JSY scheme of National Health Mission, a pregnant woman is entitled to free blood but most often the poor and the illiterate are denied blood,” said Barnabas Kindo, a maternal health rights activist of PAJHRA while talking to The Assam Tribune. “’The poor and the illiterate continue to face the insensitive attitude of some of the health staffs who demand large sum of money for blood and for other services such as birth registration for the new-borns,” Kindo said.

Dr Chiranjeeb Kakoty of North East Society for the Promotion of Youth and Masses, said, ”Getting proof of birth and birth registration for free-of-cost is a first right of a child. While the first proof of birth is issues by the hospital itself, the birth registration is issued within 21 days by the designated Government office.” “Ignorance is of course an issue in tea garden areas. However, in such cases of violation, the role of the ASHA worker is also very important. The entire chain of health service system should be made accountable,” Dr Kakoty said.

Dr NK Beria, Deputy Director, Blood Transfusion Services when asked said, “Pregnant women are exempted from the processing fee and it is totally free of cost. The processing fee is reimbursed by the National Health Mission to the health centre. A pregnant woman cannot and should not be denied blood subject to the availability of blood units of that particular group.”

Hospital authorities when contacted said that the matter will be looked into, adding that no formal complaint has been lodged so far. An official on the ground of anonymity admitted that the poor very often fall prey to the professional donors due to ignorance.