A couple in Assam committed suicide by jumping into the River Brahmaputra with their 10-month-old daughter on Monday as they were unable to afford the treatment for her congenital heart ailment.
A suicide note found at the couple’s house on Tuesday explained their reason for committing suicide. The husband and wife were both below 35 years of age.
On Monday, the couple hired a boat to visit Umanada temple located in the midst of the river in Guwahati. However, before the boat could take them to the temple, the couple jumped into the water with their child. The boatman tried to save them by throwing in life jackets, but the couple did not take them.
The couple left behind a bag on the boat from which the police identified the parents as Barun Kalita and Anamika Kalita and their infant child as Riyasmita Kalita.
Riyasmita was suffering from congenital heart defect (CHD), which is a birth defect in the structure of the heart and blood vessels.
A member of Barun’s family said that for the last six months he had been visiting the Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) to register his daughter’s name in the state government’s special medical scheme for treatment of children (below 14 years) suffering from CHD.
Assam government has a tie-up with Bangalore’s Narayana Hrudayalaya for treatment of children suffering from CHD. Every year, the state’s health department sends hundreds of CHD-affected children to the hospital, for which the entire expenses, including treatment and accommodation, are borne by the government. The scheme was launched in 2009.
“A child named Riyasmita Kalita was brought to our hospital on September 3,” GMCH superintendent Dr Ramen Talukdar said. “She was a 10 months old. After a medical test, it was found that she was suffering from congenial heal ailment with severe infection. We admitted her in our paediatric unit. On September 9, the parents left the hospital with their daughter.”
Barun’s family member alleged that doctors at GMCH did not enter Riyasmita’s name in the list of CHD-affected children for heart surgery in sophisticated hospitals outside the state, citing that Barun did not have a BPL card.
GMCH authorities dismissed the allegation. “No BPL card is required to enrol the name of a CHD-affected child in the list for free surgery at Narayana Hrudayalaya,” Dr Talukdar said. “The scheme is free for all children below 14 years.”
After the GMCH episode, Barun and his wife had visited private hospitals where the cost of surgery was obviously high. Barun, a resident of Haribhanga village in Nalbari district, who worked in a furniture shop in the same village, could not pay for the treatment.