Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Civic Sense, will you please inhabit the Indian psyche?

What are the solutions to these ills in our society?

People drive through a red light because no other car sems to be making use of a green light?

There are no traffic lights with a green for pedestrians in major intersections?

If at all a city thought it fit to have reserved handicapped parking, some fat jerk, probably with connections among the rich and famous, shamelessly parks his car in one (or maybe even straddling two) of these reserved spots.

Even if a city corporation strives to have usable and wide pavements for the use of pedestrians, some studly motorcycle rider rides his bike up onto the pavement and parks it right across that pavement so no pedestrian can bypass this bike without some gymnastics that would make a Nadia Comenicii proud - people in wheelchairs, BAH!

People park bikes (motorised or otherwise) at the foot of the occasional ramp that might have been provided, thus rendering the ramp useless.

People wanting to turn rignt at an intersection with traffic lights happily wait at the top of the left-most lane, thereby forcing the would be left turner behind him to fret and fume when a free left turn light comes up and consequently being forced to wait as much as five minutes, till the unconditional green light comes around again and the insensitive driver can cut across traffic wanting to go straight, and the luckless left-turner will be permitted to go his way. The amazing thing is that this even happens the other way, with would-be left-turners waiting at the top of the right lane.

Buses are impossible for use by people with visibility or mobility impairment. They typically park briefly some fifty feet past the bus stop and ten feet from the pavement (into the road), and some twenty people run in a mad scramble to merely be able to grab some part of the bus and stand precariously on the steps before the bus zooms away even as people are trying to get on! How far is that from a society where the bus parks exactly in front of the bus stop and the driver lowers a mechanical lift to enable a wheelchair user to get into the bus and then personally comes by and locks the wheelchair into safety belts? How many more centuries before you can ever hope to see that happening in India?

Bottom line: until EVERYBODY respects the rights of EVERYBODY else, there is no use of building ramps, or `changing the very paradigms of skill training in terms of improving the pedagogy, introducing multi-dimensional technology that enables e-content solutions and improving the capacities of Institutions/NGOs offering skill training to PwDs' as a recent article in TOI glibly suggested.

Hon. PM Modiji, can you please stop traipsing all over the world, making grand speeches and initiating any number of new schemes with long Sanskrit names which will usher in the long advertised acche din, and GET REAL and make it possible for people like me to get out of our homes, on to the roads, and lead a `normal life'! While the news blares on and on about swachh bharat,  newspapers carry stories almost every day of people (`of a certain caste') dying due to suffocation by noxious fumes from sewers of shit they have to dive into to unclog them (for the sake of people of `higher' castes, who cannot do this work which is reserved for the aforementioned caste)!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Hypocrites or Hippocrates

Memories of the family doctor paying house calls and enquiring, in leisurely fashion about the well-being of some common acquaintance seem to have become just that - a throw-back to times when people had time to write long six page letters by hand, and to observe common pleasantries in human relations.

Today, if you have the misfortune of needing the services of a doctor, there is little sign or time for pleasantries. The first few impressions are negative in the extreme: firstly, you are asked to come to a clinic at something like 7 am on a working day. One thing the receptionist will be prompt about is to get you to register (Rs. N(1) down `for consultation' if you are given a bill); secondly, it is not at all uncommon to be asked a half-hour later to go and get some test done (Rs. N(2) more down, before you may have even seen the doctor). If you are lucky, your name will be called at 11.30 am, and you finally get to see the Wizard of Oz - who will then ring a bell, in response to which one of the crisply uniformed young women who talked to you about N(k) for some k, will come in bearing a file, after glancing quickly at which, the Wizard will scribble something on the last page which can only be deciphered by another Wizard, and you will be informed that you have to buy a certain list of medicines (another N(3) + ... +(N(k) down), consume them at specified times and in specified amounts, and the smart young woman will escort you to a counter to give you the prescription. In all this while, the Wizard will not have breathed a word describing your condition or its potential future course.

The title refers to the fact that all doctors, upon - or maybe even before - earning the right to cure the unwell, have to take the so-called Hippocratic oath. Let me interject a couple of sentences from that oath (in italics) in the text below to drive home some points that needs to be made:

I will hang out my neck and say many (most?) of our doctors have to pay huge bribes before they can get admitted into a suitable programme; and this money must be recovered. Their equivalent of the bookie for our IPL cricketeers are agents from various pharmaceutical companies who line up at their clinics trying to convince them to prescribe the medicines whose samples their bags are full of! I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. The clinics mushrooming around the country are all acquiring their own scanning machines of various kinds (all of which cost BIG sums of money); is it any wonder that you keep getting asked to get a plethora of tests and scans done even when you are merely suffering from a stomach ache, and buy a slew of medicines which are often totally unnecessary?

The point of this post, however, is really to point out the obstacles they put in the way of people with disabilities (God help them particularly if they are of the `mentally ill' variety). Here are a couple of instances reported in the papers not long ago illustrating the horrible levels that the interpretations of the Hippocratic oath (I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm) have descended to:


Can't a hospital which advertises itself as accepting insurance policies for people with disabilities be sued in court for refusing to take in such a patient?