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The unhealthy state of Health

January 20, 2018

Good health is the principal capital asset of any and every person. Take care of our body, so goes the saying, as it is the only place to live. But it is not only the individual care that makes you healthy. Though prevention is better than cure but that still makes people vulnerable to different health hazards. And here comes the role of the state. It is the responsibility of the state to guard its subjects against these hazards. But it is sordid state of affairs that the threat to healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir comes from the state mostly. Ill-equipped health centres, irresponsible doctors, spurious and sub-standard drug dealers are all what make our health sector. Reports are that drug mafia are facilitated (against huge bribes) by vested interests to operate freely in different parts in the valley. The latest official data says that around 3000 medical shops are currently operating across the valley running the dirty business of fake drugs. While 1200 medical shops have never applied for license, the authorization of nearly 1800 medical shops is reported to have expired. Recently, the state drug department claimed that it has sealed 600 drug establishments in Kashmir division in last six years after they were running without licenses and the authorization of hundreds of establishments were suspended for selling drugs without prescription. However, it has failed to release the names of such drug sellers violating rules under Drugs and Cosmetics Act. What is even more disturbing is that more than fake 200 drugs are presently available for sale in valley markets. Even more shocking is that despite having been declared fake, these drugs are still on sale in the valley, and doctors prescribe them without any sense of shame. Those at the helm of affairs are fully aware of the death-game drug dealers and government officials are playing but are unwilling to act against them. Health Minister, only a few days back, admitted in the state assembly that 83 drugs have been found substandard and misbranded during the last two years. The Kashmir doctors association has described it as a tip of the iceberg. They say that less than 1% of the drugs get checked and more than 99% of medicines are without quality assurance. In fact, whole drug market is under the dragnet of these poor-quality drugs. According to an estimate, 50% drugs consumed by people in Kashmir are substandard. Even life-saving antibiotics, like Amoxicillin and Ceftriaxone, supplied to government hospitals have been found to be unsafe. The latest reports say that spurious drugs are being supplied to government hospitals also. This is nothing less than an organized crime in which official authorities and drug dealers are equally involved. In the past four years ever since these drugs began to flood Kashmir markets, the mortality rate in the valley hospital showed an upward trend. The doctors too cannot exonerate themselves. There is a section of doctors who are part of this nefarious business. They, against monetary considerations, prescribe such drugs, and on occasions even identify the medicine shops where ‘prescribed’ drugs can be purchased. These doctors are also allegedly paid commission for referring patients for x-ray and other medical tests by clinics and laboratories. The drug control department, on occasions, takes some cosmetic measures by declaring to have cancelled the licenses of fake drug dealers. But this has also turned into a profitable business for the corrupt officials of the department. All they mean by such measures is to extract more and more money from these dealers. A random survey in valley’s drug market can reveal this grim reality that more than half of the drug sellers and medicine shop owners do operate without licenses from the department. Corruption, of any nature, is a social evil and crime in any society. But it becomes more heinous when done at the cost of human lives. They could well be qualified as murderers and killers, who needed to be dealt with like any killer. But it is quite agonizing that the government is doing little in checking the menace.

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