The chief minister cancer relief fund scheme under which a cancer patient can get a maximum relief fund of Rs 1.5 lakh has left many in the lurch.
Jaswinder Kaur, 35, wife of Baljeet Singh, a labourer from Dhilwan Kalan village in this district, died of cancer on Wednesday after two years' struggle with the disease but she could not get the relief fund.
Though she was approved Rs 58,000 in May, the sheer formalities prevented her from availing the fund till her death.
"We got no relief from the government, we had to spend from our own pocket," said Amandeep Kaur, sister-in-law of Jaswinder Kaur."
Though Rs 58,000 had been approved by the cancer relief society, it would not have been of much use if she were still alive as the money came with the rider that it would cover expenses from the issuance of the letter that is May 21.
"This may be a technical mistake as the treatment costs of the patients are covered from the day they are diagnosed and the disease is confirmed by the empanelled hospital," said JC Sanadhya, medical superintendent of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot.
Jeet Singh, 75, a man from Kothe Ramsar village, claimed that the family did not get any relief from the government. "My wife Tej Kaur was detected with breast cancer in June last year and we submitted the file for the relief fund. We learnt that Rs 1 lakh was approved for her treatment in August last year but so far we have not got any money though she is getting the treatment," claimed Jeet Singh.
"Rs 1 lakh was approved for the treatment of my mother in August last year but we were asked to submit the bills from the date of approval. My mother was operated upon in June so we failed to get the money," claimed Nachhatar Singh, son of Tej Kaur.
Gurdeep Kaur, a labour-class woman from Dhilwan Kalan village, who has been getting treatment from Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot, for the past three months, knows nothing about the relief fund. She has been operated upon for breast cancer and is reportedly on chemotherapy. "We are poor people belonging to the labour class. My sons and husband work as daily wagers and they have spent from their own pocket," Gurdeep Kaur says.
Many formalities also dissuade some people from claiming the relief fund. "I could not complete all the formalities to get relief fund," says Sukhmander Singh, also a Dhilwan Kalan resident who claims to have spent Rs 5 lakh on the cancer treatment of his mother Jarnail Kaur in the past two years.
"I have seen patients and their attendants completing formalities and even then they fail to get the amount in many cases, so I preferred not to apply for fund," Sukhmander Singh says.
"If the government wants to do something for cancer patients, it should provide free-of-cost treatment to them. But the present scheme is harassing, with more formalities and so devised that most people are not able to claim the fund," says Darshan Singh, former sarpanch of Dhilwan Kalan village.
He says there have been six cancer deaths during the past six months and an equal number are getting treatment. "Jaswinder Kaur died waiting for the fund, Tej Kaur failed to get it, Gurdeep Kaur knew nothing about it and Sukhmander Singh did not claim it, this is the reality of the scheme even in a small village," Darshan Singh says.
"There is a misconception about the relief fund among patients; they want all the money without understanding the proper procedure," said Dr Shavinder Singh Gill, vice-chancellor, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences.