Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Lal Ded Hospital Experience

Ishfaq recalls a harrowing experience over a 15-day period

They call it HOSPITAL

Ishfaq Ahmad

I have just left a place where reason and health cannot remain unimpaired. I am sure I am in possession of my exact and circumstantial memory to compile this write-up, however. Lala-Ded hospital, almost everyone in Kashmir knows it inside out, perchance the major maternity hospital of the valley, approximately with 500 beds directly associated with the Govt. Medical College Srinagar. The hospital presents a spectacle comprising attendants, patients, doctors, midwives, security, and the cleaning staff - an inquisitive interest in everything which my eyes captured for fifteen days of my stay as an attendant. The hospital remains very much crowded during the days. A tide of population is seen rushing past the main door guarded by the security, but no worries, you can easily bribe them with cigarettes or simply a tenner will do, making a complete nonsense of hospital management. At dusk the throng diminishes momentarily. I had never before been in a similar situation where sea of human heads filled me on day to day basis. I was kind of a lost but my observations were in tact. I looked at every doctor with keen interest, their apparel, scent, gait, visage and their expression – it all varied from time to time. Their strolling in the corridors, humming and chatting with fellow docs seemed far awar from professional standards. But few of them were exceptional, only thinking about their duty. Making their way to the patients even if in that mob like atmosphere, but never showed signs of fatigue and impatience. Others, mainly the nurses, without any worthwhile degree in nursing, not even an associate’s degree; I mostly liked their watch-word ‘ I’ve only got one pair of hands’; the midwives executing their duty arrogantly and carelessly, they wouldn’t have even obeyed Soranus of Ephesus. And finally the store keepers (fashion victims), always restless in their movements wearing flushed faces, talking and gesticulating to each other as if feeling a burden on their shoulders.

There were undoubtedly other types of people, from all walks of life; businessmen, employees, teachers, men of leisure, but they did not greatly excite my attention, partly because their purpose of visiting the hospital paralleled mine. The most important section of the hospital is Labour Room, pathetic, filthy. It is extremely distressing that patients at times are denied a labour bed just because their maternity unit is full.

The smallest of the problems in the hospital is the scarcity of drinking water, in fact there is no drinking water at all. This is so problematic for the patients who come to the hospital along with their attendants. This problem reaches the peak especially during lunch and dinner times; as a result scores of attendants mostly of far flung corners of the valley depend on the hotels and tea stalls situated near the hospital. With the shortage of drinking water on one side, the hospital surroundings are dirty with so many stenches guarding it. It shows incredible waste and the violation of hospital norms that has been taking place in the hospital where mothers are getting this sort of sub-standard treatment despite Umar Abdullah’s tour of inspection on the very first day of his office as Chief Minister. Undoubtedly his unexpected crackdown has given some shine and sheen to the hospital corridors, some bed-linen, some attentiveness in the staff, and a very brief respite to the people.

Unfortunately, there is still suffering to be seen, wailing to be heard, hopelessness among patients, and corruption hovering; this is the present condition of the hospital, a hospital that has served people of the valley for years now.
Even if the hospital has performed such a crucial role in the lives of Kashmiri families, no one would risk the lives of unborn babies and their mothers in such an unhygienic atmosphere. After spending long ordeal at the hospital, the best of which was sharing the joy of parents on the arrival of their baby, at the same time, the sorrow of seeing babies born sick, malformed, and the cases of stillborn. It was very hard for the parents to believe that their baby may not live or may have long-term problems. There can certainly be lot of questions about the choice of hospitals, gynecologists, and midwifery but the decision is all yours. We all know that the patients are the most important people in any hospital regardless of status and stature.

I would like to conclude with a short message to dear members of the medical and administrative staff of Lal Ded; your work is based on the reverence for life from the moment of conception until death. Shower your love and care on every patient through your medical education and researches; you bear witness to the special dignity of the sick. It is also fitting to say that it’s only your care, support that strengthens the families who hope although against hope. May Allah bless you in your work.

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