Not many years ago, a Manipuri man attending a conference in Kashmir, jokingly, and exasperatingly, said that even if he sneezes in the morning without any underlying physiological cause, he blames ‘it on the Indian occupation’. People who have been denied the right to rule themselves validly blame the occupier for underdevelopment, administrative mess, corruption and a host of other problems faced by them. But there is a limit to this tendency of blaming the occupier for all your troubles. The SMHS Hospital is a case in point.
Let us see what can be blamed on the local government, whose raison d’etre is to provide a democratic cover to the actual rule of the gun. Having only about 100 sanitation workers for maintaining cleanliness at the most-visited tertiary health care centre in the Valley can only be termed as pathetic. These people are supposed to mop miles of space in corridors, wards, doctors’ rooms and clinics and clean washrooms, dispose of hospital waste and other such jobs. It is only natural that they will cut corners. Now look at the government’s priorities. A lot of resources and energy went into the building of a new super-specialty hospital adjacent to the SMHS Hospital at Shireen Bagh. Experts have called it crassly wasteful because a super-specialty hospital has been in existence for the past several decades in the form of SKIMS, Soura. Having two super-specialty hospitals at a distance of hardly 7km from each other is disastrous planning. At the same time, the government plans to construct an AIIMS-like institution in south Kashmir. Rather than hiring an adequate number of sanitation workers for the SMHS Hospital and other hospitals in the state and rather than equipping the existing infrastructure, the government is building new institutions, which, like the older ones, obviously would be half-done.
Political compulsions force militarised governments into taking such decisions. But that doesn’t absolve the people of their duties. Now that the people have an idea of what these governments are capable of and what can be expected of them, they are duty bound to improve conditions in such public spaces as hospitals. Dozens of attendants need not storm the hospital while admitting a patient. A doctor at SMHS rightly said that if the sanitation workers only wipe off the dust left behind by people, they will have truckloads of it