Funds paucity hits TB fight in JK

SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir is short of funds to fight Tuberculosis (TB), which the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared “world’s deadliest communicable disease” in its 2014 report.
For past four days, around 181 Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) contractual employees, whose job is to administer medicines to the TB patients, have been on strike as the authorities didn’t release their salaries and the funds for running the programme.
According to general secretary of the J&K RNTCP Employees Association, Musadiq Rafiq, the programme has been running without funds since January this year. Consequently, he said, the contractual staff crucial for effective control of the disease was not paid salaries regularly while the purchase of medicines and equipment also took a hit.
“We have been running the programme by purchasing medicines ourselves; the authorities released our salaries with months of delay using the money actually meant for NRHM scheme. But we haven’t received a penny as salary in past four months, forcing us to go on strike,” Rafiq told Kashmir Reader Friday.
“Initially, we are holding strike till October 29. If our salaries were not released before that, we will go on an indefinite strike,” he added.
The strike, called after unsuccessful conversations with the authorities, has put at risk the state’s around 5100 TB patients registered under the programme. The patients, including an estimated 60 multidrug resistant cases, are likely to miss their medicines under assistance of the employees.
“Before going on strike, we approached both the state government and government of India with our demands. But they ignored us, forcing us to take this extreme step,” Rafiq said. “We have informed the authorities in state and in New Delhi that they alone will be responsible for any harm caused to the patients due to our strike.”
TB continues to be the “world’s deadliest communicable disease” as per the WHO’s latest report. According to the report, an estimated nine million people developed TB in 2013 while 1.5 million including 36,000 patients who had developed HIV, died of the disease during the year.
J&K has been struggling to control the disease reportedly due to lack of coordination between various components of the health sector.