Srinagar: He was a perfectly healthy, ever-smiling, a workaholic, who would single-handedly manage a workload of 10 people.
His friends would joke that he was a “robot”, who never showed any signs of fatigue.
However, last year in June, the world turned upside down for Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, a 48-year-old trader from Chadoora, Budgam.
He was detected with stage 4 Lung cancer.
With sullen eyes and a resigned voice, his elder brother, Ghulam Mohiudin, recalls, “One day he returned late from his shop. He complained of pain in the chest area. We dismissed it just as a symptom of cold or a mild chest-infection.”
The pain intensified the next day. His family took him to Chest Diseases Hospital, Drugjan Dalgate. They prescribed medicines but to no avail.
A month dragged on with no improvement in his condition.
“One of my friends suggested we take him to an oncologist. We visited Dr Zaid who lives in our neighbourhood. He examined him and immediately raised an alarm advising us to shift him to Regional Cancer Centre, SKIMS.”
After several rounds of check-up, he was put on chemo-therapy.
From SKIMS, he was referred to Cancer Society of Kashmir. The chemotherapy doses burnt a hole in the pockets of the family, reducing them almost to penury.
They claimed to have spent about two lakhs on his treatment till now.
“I am staying with him from the last eight months. Our family spent all the savings on him. We are trying out best with whatever little we can manage to bring him back to health.” Mohidin said with a sigh.
Sofi lies still on the hospital bed. His sunken eyes lie fixed on the door, expecting his wife to pay him a visit.
Tears stream down in barely restrained grief down the tired face of Ghulam Mohidin.
He has to put up a brave face every day and pretend that everything is rosy and right: “We have not told his wife about the deadly ailment he is suffering from, else God forbid she will harm herself.”
Another patient, Mohammad Mukhtar Parray, a peasant from Hajin area of Bandipora, stands listlessly in a queue, waiting to get registered. He has been detected with a colon cancer.
“I have undergone two surgeries. They cost me around 2-2.5 lakh. My health is failing with each passing day, and I can’t afford any further treatment,” he said.
Mukhtar had to board four vehicles in order to reach Cancer Society.
He hopes to see a doctor and asks everyone around to pray for him.
These are hardly isolated cases. Rather, this is the norm in the OPD ward at the ‘Cancer society of Kashmir’, which receives around 40 cancer patients in a day.
Most of them are usually from the lower strata of the society, who can barely afford the prohibitive cost of cancer treatment.
The centre is an accurate reflection of the extent of the explosion of the menace of cancer in the state, and the lack of readiness to fight it. Official statics show that 26,214 patients have been reported as suffering from cancer since 2011.
Against such a massive onslaught, facilities including the Center seem woefully inadequate.
The ward at the Center has three beds, and a handful of staff members to cater to a large number of patients.
Admitting the dearth, the senior medical staffer Abdul Khaliq blamed the “minimal wages” and “government’s unwillingness to upgrade the private sector.”
“Government should take cognisance of the increasing number of cancer patients and likewise upgrade the infrastructure especially in the private sector,” said Khaliq.
“We are the only NGO who is trying to reach out to a many cancer patients as we can,” he added.
On inquiring why the doctor’s ward is empty today given the huge inflow of patients, another staffer revealed, “Only two doctors come here voluntarily two days a week.”
“They come on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Nobody wants to works for free or low wages. Where will we get doctors every-day for their examination?” the executive officer of the NGO, GN Manto, asks.
The cancer society in collaboration with patients and palliative care at SKIMS provide free medical assistance to cancer patients in the region.
“Our team provides palliation to patients in last stages of cancer every Tuesday and Thursday,” said Mantoo.
The centre, however, has no psychologists or counsellors to equip patients with any means to fight the trauma and pain.
Dr Sameer Kaul, Senior Consultant Surgical and Clinical Oncology at Apollo Cancer Institute New Delhi, notes the scale of devastation that cancer induces: “Cancer doesn’t only impact the patient, but also the caretakers and family of the patient. The pain at watching an able body wither helplessly is compounded by depression, and grief. Ultimately the maintenance of social and economic makeup of the society depends upon a healthy body. Its destruction devastates everyone.”
He also believes health insurance should be acquired on priority, as most patients who travel to Delhi for treatment are left penniless by the exorbitant cost.
Dr Maqbool Lone, Head Radiation and Oncology at SKIMS believes that this trend will be reversed soon.
The government of India after many deliberations approved upgrading RCC SKIMS to State Cancer Institute (SCI) and allotted Rs 120 crores to upgrade its Infrastructure and buy the machinery.” Already the PET-CT facility has been started at the centre, and many more projects like Linear Accelerator are in the pipeline.
The patients wait in pain and hopelessness; one hopes the upgradation will occur lest their death warrants be signed.
Grassroots democracy:It is raining sops for Panches and Sarpanches in J&K
Srinagar, Jan 17: From insurance cover to paid holiday, Jammu and Kashmir government has gone all out to open purse strings for Panchayat representatives in the Union Territory.
At least 35 Sarpanches from the Union Territory are on a 10 day tour of Maharashtra and Gujarat since January 10.
“We (Sarpanches) are being taken to various cities. We will also get to know how the Panchayati Raj system works there,” said one of the Sarpanches, who is part of the tour.
An official of Rural Development Department said the second leg of tour for Sarpanches would start from January 23. “Centre has directed J&K administration to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the Union Territory. Organizing tours is part of providing additional incentives to Sarpanches,” he said.
Similarly, over 40,000 Panchayat members are being brought under the insurance cover in Jammu and Kashmir at par with government employees.
“The demand was raised by a group of Sarpanches and Panches who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in September last year. Following which, Centre told J&K administration to take all measures in this regard,” the official said.
Sources said J&K administration is finalizing modalities for providing life insurance cover to the Panchayat Raj representatives. “Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam has held several meetings with Financial Commissioner Finance Department and authorities of Rural Development Department. Discussion is going over amount of risk cover and the premium,” sources said.
Sources said once the process is finalized, government would float tenders for engaging insurance company. “Centre believes that insurance cover would provide a sense of security to Panchayat members,” they said.
Filling the political gap, government has also decided to treat Panchayat members and councilors as ‘VIPs’ on Republic Day celebrations in Kashmir. As per official documents, district development commissioner Srinagar has been directed to prepare a list of invitees.
“Invitees shall include VVIP and VIPs. They include chairperson of BDCs, Panches, Sarpanches and councilors,” the document reads.
Earlier, leaders of political parties were being invited as VIPs. Centre, as part of its initiative to empower around 40,000 elected local representatives in J&K, had earlier enhanced the financial powers of Panchayats 10-fold from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh, and that of block councils from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh.
There are 21 departments including Rural Development, Social Welfare, Health, Education, Power, Horticulture, Fisheries and Agriculture, which come under the administrative control of Panchayat members, the official said.
Polls to nearly 13,000 gram panchayats likely in Feb
New Delhi, Jan 17: The elections to the nearly 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held next month and a notification is this regard is expected to be issued on January 25, officials said on Friday.
If the polls take place, it will be the first elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into union territories in August last year.
The elections to about 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats is likely to be held next month and a notification is expected to be issued on January 25, a Home Ministry official said.
The entire election process is expected to be over by February end.
The posts were lying vacant since November last year when the elections to the local bodies were held.
Out of Kashmir”s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since then.
The announcement to the polls is likely to come amidst the visit of 36 union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Saturday.
The 2018 polls to the local bodies had witnessed poor participation with two major regional political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — boycotting it.
LG reviews Jammu lake project, says admin will expedite works
Jammu, Jan 17: Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu reviewed the progress of a number of projects in the winter capital of the Union territory on Friday and said the administration will expedite the works.
He visited the market place and tourism reception centre to assess the facilities there. During a visit to the Tawi river bank the L-G was briefed by Ajeet Sahu, the principal secretary of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, about the progress of its beautification project and the Jammu lake project.
During his visits, Murmu was accompanied by top divisional-level officials and heads of departments.
Asserting that the administration was trying to expedite the projects, the L-G said, “We don”t know what had happened in the past, but we will carry it from here and see to it that these are completed.”
In June last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government had cancelled GR Infra Projects Limited”s contract for developing the artificial Tawi lake. The administration is set to release fresh tenders to resume work.
A revised detailed project report was framed, according to which Rs 51.57 crore shall be required to complete the project and Rs 4.97 crore to undo the damage caused due to floods till date, officials said.
The project, launched in 2009 by the Congress-NC government, was marred by delays and missed six deadlines before work came to a standstill in 2018.
As per the project plan, an auto-mechanical barrage would be constructed on the river Tawi, one kilometre downstream of main Tawi bridge. This will help create an artificial lake at Belicharana. The 1,500-metre-long and 600-metre-wide artificial lake, a first-of-its-kind here, will give a new dimension to tourism in Jammu city, officials said.
In phase-II of the project, beautification and embankment works are to be taken up under Tawi River Front Development Project for which an MoU has already been signed by Jammu Development Authority (JDA) with the Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation.
Before beginning the tour Murmu paid obeisance at the famous Raghunath temple in the morning.
SSF guarding LG strengthened with intake of 19 more cops
Press Trust of India
Jammu, Jan 17: The special security force (SSF) guarding Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu has been strengthened with induction of 19 more police personnel and support staff, officials said.
As per the order issued by Special Secretary, Home Department, Shakeel-Ur-Rehman, 13 personnel including three officers and six police staff have been sent on deputation with the SSF with immediate effect on Thursday.
This step has been done to strengthen the security cover around the L-G, they said adding that the force will now have a total of 80 well-trained officers.
In 2018, the then State Administrative Council (SAC) of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir had approved a bill for setting up the force for providing proximate security to the governor.
The bill, which was later given approval, contains provisions related to the constitution and regulation of a separate security force in the state for providing proximate security to the governor, members of his immediate family and matters connected therewith.
Those posted with the SSF, like their counterparts in the SSG, have commando training.
The legal framework related to constitution and regulation of a separate security force in Jammu and Kashmir for providing proximate security to the chief minister, members of his immediate family and other connected matters is contained in the Jammu and Kashmir Special Security Group (SSG) Act, 2000.
The SSG, which was set up in 1996 after the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah came to power, will continue to provide security to the chief minister and the former CMs.
The SSG at present provides security to four former CMs including Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress.