Silent Slaves from India
Kerala and Mangalore are two places in South India which caters to domestic and international demand of nurses in hospitals. Nurses from these places could be easily found in every small town hospitals and dispensaries working on meagre income and few of them work religiously for missionary work. In India there is so much uproar in media on tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, 46, the nurse from Mangalore in the King Edward VII hospital, who was duped by the Radio Jockey, Mel Greig and Michael Christian of Australia in a prank call and subsequent humiliations. Mel Greig and Michael Christian obtained information about the Duchess of Cambridge’s health by pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles while playing a prank call to the King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes, where the Duchess was being treated for acute morning sickness. In few responses to coverage of Indian media of Jacintha Saldanha case, one Britisher has said that the victim was from a third world country. It is like rubbing salt to the wound.
And India is also not a safe heaven for nurses; they are exploited financially, made to work like slaves, and sexually exploited in hospital by staff. There are numerous cases where nurses are raped by ward boys of hospital in night shifts. Cases like Aruna Shanbaug really raise apprehensions – if there is any God who took no interest in His lesser children, who turned to irreversible vegetable state from 39 years because of brain injury and spinal cord injury which she got during sodomy by a ward boy of hospital, confined to bed and suffering from no faults of her own.
I am not writing this post just for the sake of writing some another post but I knew from the core of my heart that these nurses are one of the most vulnerable and weaker section of society who are denied their fundamental, constitutional right to work in a dignified working condition, to form a trade union or to raise their voice of protests. When they are in hospital uniform, they are respected as sister but when they live in their shanties they are ridiculed in a derogatory manner.
I have my first hand, mixed experiences of witnessing exploitations and utter disregard to nurses in Delhi. I lived for six years in a locality where nurses reside in thousands of numbers because of proximity to hospitals like Holy Family, Escorts Heart Research Centre and Apollo Hospital. In Delhi and National Capital Region, there are more than 50 prominent hospitals, both state and privately owned, and innumerable private nursing homes mushrooming in city. And none of these hospitals have a trade union of nurses. In these hospitals, nurses are underpaid and overworked, most of them working two to three shifts in a single day.
I have seen nurses sending regularly ‘money orders’ at postal offices to their family members in distant villages, 2500 km far from Delhi. These nurse bribe postman to get their registered letters else he threatens to not deliver letters. Landlords abusing and threatening them to evict their rooms. These uneducated, rustic landlords extort 2-3 times rent, they cite reason that nurses works in shifts and used to occupy a room by 6-8 nurses, a room which is just 8 feet by 10 feet may cost around Rs 12,000/- or more depending on the vicinity to nearest hospital. These landlords gets double benefit from these nurses, first by rent and second, forcing them to buy grocery items from their shop. If married these nurses have a drone-like husband who sleeps throughout the day to wake at the sunset to buy expensive whisky from hard earned money of his wife.
These nurses are exploited by VISA-mafias who show them green postures of working in gulf countries. There are numerous English speaking centres which guarantee to train in perfect English for clearing IELTS and TOEFL tests. So, these nurses run the economy of colony where they reside in clusters.
It’s hard to say why these Malyali nurses don’t intermingle with local people, may be due to lack of time, language problem or cultural differences and often these Malyali nurses are mocked as ‘Mallus’ for being a Malyali.
I have seen hundreds of Kerala nurses standing in queue attired in traditional Kerala-dresses for Christmas celebrations on the candle march prior to X-Mas. This is the day when you can see hundreds of nurses altogether or else they would be busy in hospital job.
Just one year back, Kolkata’s AMRI Hospital witnessed death of 91 patients in a fire tragedy. Two nurses from Kerala – Remya Rajappan and Vineeta PK saved lives of nine patients before their own tragic death. They were rescuing patients in the crucial hour of dead night when doctors switched off their mobiles and fled from the hospital.
Like every cloud has a silver lining, one such person to feel proud of in nurse community is Annies Kanmani Joy who became first nurse IAS officer.
If get opportunity then read the book ‘Beyond Love’ by Dominique Lapierre, you may cry by knowing how a nurse of Missionary of Charity, who was from a very humble background, was died of Rabies because of lack of a single vial of anti-rabies vaccine. Medical sciences have advanced very much and we have almost conquered cancer and have medicine for AIDS but there are certainly no medicine to combat humiliation, and the feeling to be cheated. And it’s really tragic that few insane Radio jockeys and so called comedy show anchors play prank to gullible victims who can’t face the guilt arisen from the unwanted humiliations.
© Sushil Kumar