By Uma Sudhir
In the last week of August, I travelled to `Bharat’, about 100 km from Hyderabad. To a district called Nalgonda. A district that in my journalistic experience has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. I first reported on it in 1994 when I was with `The Times of India’ in Delhi. The story was on human beings so deformed and crooked that they look almost like extraterrestrial beings. The reason : there was fluoride in the groundwater and no government was concerned enough to provide safe drinking water. I feel abashed to say that I won a United Nations award for my report but the story on the ground remains the same even today. Little has changed.
In 1999-2000, when an international baby-selling adoption racket was unearthed in Hyderabad, NDTV traced that the newborn baby girls were being `bought’ for a few hundred rupees from the tribal belt of Nalgonda district to be `sold’ to international clients for a few lakh rupees.
This time I was in Nalgonda, ten days after India celebrated its 63rd birthday. Just in those ten days, three baby girls had been given away as unwanted, just in one cradle set up by the government in one primary health centre in Devarakonda in Nalgonda district. This time the babies were being given to the Government of India.
Outside I saw a familiar Page 3 socialite with a diet coke in hand, being taken around by the hospital staff. He looked every inch mighty impressed with the facility and I am sure, would pitch for it with his international clients during his trips abroad.
I shared with Dr Dutt my anguish at what I had seen in Nalgonda. At what a contrast the two worlds are. Dr Dutt said he would earn just 16000 rupees every month if he worked in a government hospital anywhere in `Bharat’. And this was one of the leading orthopaedics in the country speaking. No wonder, I did not find a single doctor at that hospital in Nalgonda.
As I was leaving the hospital, I found a busy Arabic translation desk, attending to clients from the Middle East. The modern face of medical tourism, always at your service.
In 1996, some 480 villagers filed nominations for the Lok Sabha elections for the Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat. Why? They wanted the government to implement a drinking water project for the fluoride-affected villages. The presence of nearly 500 candidates necessitated a giant-sized ballot paper in the pre-EVM era. Nalgonda made national news. It is 13 years since that election. Not much has changed. And four Lok Sabha polls later, `Bharat’ still remains `Bharat’.
How do I say Mera Bharat is Mahaan?
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