A deadly virus has gripped people battling a more serious disease of poverty. Down with hepatitis C, more than 1,600 poor people in Baghapurana, 600 in Langeana village, 900 in Badhni Kalan town and many more in the surrounding areas in this district are in a lonely struggle.
Instead of installing hepatitis-test facilities at the civil hospitals of Baghapurana, Badhni Kalan and Nihal Singh Wala, the health department has tried to cover up the epidemic. Its survey teams recorded only 87 cases of the disease. "The survey was an eyewash and done in haste for the sake of filing a report," said Charanjit Sharma, a teacher at Langeana, a worst-affected village that no team ever visited.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had made an election promise of solving Moga's 10-year-old hepatitis-C problem, recalls social worker Gurtej Singh Brar of Langeana. "Where's the solution?" said Charan Singh of Baghapurana, former subedar in the army.
Gurtej Singh, 35; Jagmohan Singh, 39; Nirmal Singh, 22; and Resham Singh, 32, all of Langeana found out they had hepatitis when they went to donate blood at a camp in their village. That was three years ago. "In the past 10 years, the health department has never organised any camp for the hepatitis-C examination," said Gurtej Singh.
Five people from two poor families of Sukhanand village visit a baba (witch doctor) every Sunday to get rid of the curse. "We have no money for treatment," said Malkit Kaur, one of the people seeking relief. "My husband, a farm labourer, makes Rs. 1,500 a month. We are a family of six; how can my two sons and I get any medicine for hepatitis-C from any private hospital."
Additional deputy commissioner Joram Beda accepted the seriousness of the situation. "The health department does hold examination camps from time to time," he said. "Many private doctors, however, do not report all the hepatitis cases to us. I will seek a detailed report and do investigation."