Shocked experts say there are many schemes to aid the needy
Baramulla: Aged six, twins Jameel and Shakeel, sons of Bashir Ahmad Khan, a goatherd from Sundarbani Rajori, begin the day begging with their mother, hoping for charity in this holy month for the surgeries they have needed from their birth to treat the cleft palate syndrome they were born with.
A cleft palate is when there is an opening into the nose beginning in the roof of the mouth, a disorder that can result in high risk feeding problems and and also impairments in speech. Jameel and Shakeel’s parents have treated them at local hospitals and have visited local saints and hakims, but all to no avail.
Last year, the nomadic family reached Baramulla, as per the seasonal migration with their herd. The father managed to admit the children in Class I at the government primary school at Bulgam. When the other goatherds return to their homes in December, they too will go back once again, to stay there until March.
Raziya, the twins’ mother, told Kashmir Reader that they had visited the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar, on the urgings of neighbours and the children’s teachers. “After a lot of tests from one place to another, the doctors in SKIMS told us they can’t do anything without operations. They said the children will be fit and fine, but we have to arrange the payments because the hospital can’t arrange such costly medicines free of cost, and the twins need several operations and a lot of money for medicines.
“We are very poor and we have no money, nor do we have any property. We have already sold our goats for the treatment and today we have nothing. Now the children have decided they will visit the markets to collect money themselves for their treatment. A month has passed, and we have almost visited every possible place but have collected only a few hundred rupees. We have also visited an education officer in Srinagar a few months ago, but the officials there completely denied us and told us they have no scheme to provide medical help to any school-going children,” Raziya told Kashmir Reader.
Meanwhile, Jameel and Shakeel say they want to go to school but are well aware their family cannot afford the money for their treatment. “Now we have decided to beg before people and hope that they will help us.”
A senior doctor in Baramulla was astounded that SKIMS doctors had told the family that they could not arrange medicines for the children. “There are so many schemes in the health department under which it can perform operations and arrange all medicines free of cost for such needy children,” he said.
“The government has announced free operations and treatment for cleft palate syndrome years ago,” another doctor said. “It is unfortunate if someone denied free medicine and other treatment to these children. The government has also ordered that hospital authorities are responsible for the food and accommodation of attendants of patients.”
When Kashmir Reader took up the twins’ case with the Baramulla chief education officer, Abdul Latif Wani, and deputy chief education officer Balbir Singh, both officers assured that they would take steps for their complete treatment. “We have provisions in our education department to provide medical aid to any disabled students who need it. We assure you we will provide them complete medical aid till the end of their all surgeries under one of our educational schemes,” both officers told Kashmir Reader.