It is pathetic to see poor Nepalese cancer patients and their caretakers stationed at footpaths, dinning at hand cart and unable to attend natures call on time due to unavailable spots.
By Dr. Suryabahadur Singh
The Tata Cancer Hospital Mumbai (Tata Memorial Center) is one of the reputed medical centres for the treatment and research of Cancer in the world that serves people from all over the world. The hospital has produced a large chunk of trained oncologists, radiologists, and other Para-medical staffs. These medico specialists were trained from all major under developed and developing Asian countries including Nepal.
In the background of this, we will analyze the plight of Nepali Cancer patients in Mumbai. The plethora of problems starts with Nepalese patients those who cannot afford the costly treatment by categorizing them as foreign national patients at the hospital. The majority of sufferers are middle class and poor families, who hail from far flung areas with no support from the locally residing Nepalese in Mumbai or own resources.
Mumbai, a densely populated metropolitan city, is an expensive place to live. The soaring inflation has badly affected Mumbaikars. Cancer drugs, medicine and surgery charges are expensive. Poor people find it very difficult to afford much needed facilities like accommodation, daily commuting, foods and essential consumable items for the patients along with his attendant. The available accommodations at concession rates are always packed. Many a times people have to acquire least sanitized lodges at higher rates or reside with all difficulties in commuting from the suburban Mumbai. It is painful to imagine a patient traveling at pick hours in a jam packed train compartment reserved for handicapped and cancer patients.
The hospital administration provides on the spot certificates for long journey travels. The Indian Railway provides special quotas reserved for cancer patients and his accomplish. Nepalese patients were entitled for this, but the hospital charges for foreign nationals are nearly five times which mars them at large. They have to be entirely at the mercy of hospital authorities or local charitable institutes or own savings. It is pathetic to see poor Nepalese families stationed at footpaths, dinning at hand cart and unable to attend natures call on time due to unavailable spots. Their fate accompli drag them to bear the burnt of tough time in the lone fight with dreaded disease.
The another malady which marks passing of the buck observed in referrals of ailing cancer patients by the people associated with the Nepalese government or leaders from major political parties. They just write a complimentary letter to local Nepali organizations to provide help, support and assistance.
Most of the Nepali organizations in Mumbai are infested with political clouts, disorganized structure, thin financial pockets and self centered system of working. We may come across with handful of self proclaimed Nepali social workers who provides lip service over mobile phone and ready to assist only well off patients for getting some monetary returns.
It has been observed that, poor cancer patients from other countries were duly assisted by their consulates monetarily and in kind assistance too. The Nepalese are left to die hard with meager support and own capacity to raise the fund for treatment, accommodation and other essential services needed for a cancer patient.
Now, the local charitable institutes in Mumbai have stopped assisting people from other nations and demand strict proof of their residence, financial capacities, and bank account details. The stricter Reserve Bank of India norms for opening an account with the local Bank under Know Your Customers norms are subsidiary hurdles which cannot be addressed by credentials issued by Nepali authorities purely in Nepali.
There exist no formal translators’ office for Nepali in Mumbai. The translation done by local Nepali organizations are either accepted or totally rejected at many places. The hospital provides collection of cheque in the name of patients account with proper certification only. One can imagine, the difficulties faced by an illiterate Nepali hailing from a far flung area who never stepped out of Nepal and can able to communicate only in Nepali.
We cannot prevent the sufferings of the disease, but the cascading procedural difficulties can be addressed properly by Ministry of Health Government of Nepal with the common effort of other related ministries.
The Government of Nepal can write to the administration of Tata Hospital, Mumbai through Government of India on following aspects:
- To consider concession charges for Nepali below poverty line, on the basis of certificates issued by administrators of Nepal in English or Nepali,
- Accepting translated version of Nepali certificates by the registered Nepali social organizations in Mumbai or establish recognized official translator for Nepali.
- Three Nepali organizations in Mumbai are holding office in residential areas which are located in suburbs. It can be converted into shelter homes equipped with communication facilities on consents or else to request Indian Government for providing a small piece of land to build dormitory type residence for at least twenty patients and their families at nominal rates.
- The Nepali commercial consulate can be established in Mumbai which can take a role to protect the interest of affected Nepalese patients on behalf of the Ambassador of Nepal situated in New Delhi.
- The Medical fraternity in Nepal can also play a pivotal role by making awareness about the treatment facilities at Tata Hospital, Mumbai. The referrals with the probable difficulties and ways to tackle the same can be an additional help to Nepalese Cancer patients.
The plight of Nepali sufferers are not a problems of an individual, it is a community problem. Our joint efforts can bring a solace to affected Nepalese. Let’s be proactive to resolve these issues without much wasting of further time.
(The author is a Doctorate in Law and Senior Vice President with Nepali Jansampark Samiti, Central Office India along with this, working amongst Immigrant Nepalese for more than twenty five years in Mumbai.)