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Medical shocker: Manipur patient dies in excavator on way to Myanmar hospital

Community leaders allege the incident has once again exposed development disparity between state’s Imphal Valley and surrounding hills

india Updated: Jul 18, 2017 10:34 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Medical shocker,Health care,Kuki
An excavator was turned into an ambulance to carry 40-year-old Thangtinlen Baite to a nearby hospital in neighbouring Myanmar. (HT Photo )

An excavator was turned into an ambulance to take a patient from Manipur to nearest hospital in neighbouring Myanmar on Saturday, in another instance of deplorable condition of the health-care service in the country.

The patient could not withstand the arduous journey and died on the way, community leaders said, alleging development disparity between the state’s majority Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley and the surrounding hills, inhabited mostly by tribal communities.

In a country where bullock carts, handcarts and bicycles – shoulders too – are turned into mortuary vans due to lack of ambulance service, 40-year-old Thangtinlen Baite got his final ride in the bucket of an excavator used to dig or remove earth.

There have been several instances in different parts of the country where kin of diseased were forced to take unusual mode of transportation to carry bodies in the absence of ambulance. But even by that standard, Baite’s case stood out for its bizarreness.

Baite, suffering from an unknown illness, was from New Gamnom village in Khengjoi subdivision of Manipur’s Chandel district. The village is close to India’s border with Myanmar.

Baite’s kin had the option of taking him to the nearest primary health sub-centre on the Indian side at Sehlon, about 2km from the village. But, locals said, it has had no doctor or medicine for ages.

The other health sub-centre in the area – at New Somtal some 20 km away -- too was of no help. Villagers then decided to take Baite to Khampat Hospital in Myanmar in the excavator they requisitioned from a nearby construction site.

He died midway to the Myanmar hospital situated 50km from New Somtal.

“There was no point in taking him to the New Somtal sub-centre as nothing works there. And the question of taking him to the nearest Indian hospital, at Moreh (Manipur) 65km away, did not arise because there is no road,” Michael Lamjathang Haokip told HT.

Haokip represents an association of Thadou community students. Baites belong to the Thadou tribe.

But, as central government employee Minthang Haokip pointed out, the Moreh hospital too is in a sorry state of affairs. “People there go to Tamu across the border in Myanmar for treatment,” he said.

“We will inquire why the patient could not get medical facilities in nearby health centres,” said a senior health official of the state on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media.

The Thadou Students’ Association said Baite’s death should make the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government in Manipur walk the talk of giving more attention to the hills.

Much of Manipur’s development is visible in the Imphal Valley while the hills suffer from lack of proper infrastructure.

“Baite died because there was no road or healthcare service at hand. And a damaged bridge forced him to take the last journey in a JCB (excavator) that can negotiate rough conditions,” a spokesperson of the association said.

“If hospitals and all-weather roads are a must, why should people have to go to Myanmar for basic needs? Does PMGSY (Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojana) really work in remote areas and does Border Area Development Programme really exist?” Michael asked.

He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take note of Baite’s death and try to make a difference in the lives of the people of the Northeast.

First Published: Jul 17, 2017 14:25 IST