Fighting the odds

Dec 2014 Shweta Vitta Photo credit: Shweta Vitta

Around seven kilometres from the Bagalkot highway, inside the agricultural lands, there is a patch of land which was cleared over a decade ago and around 12 makeshift tents were erected. Each tent is made of nothing but a few sticks and huge plastic sheets. There is no access to water, electricity and sanitation. The government can destroy the settlement any day. In other words, there is no sign of inclusive development.

Of the 12 tents, 5 belong to Darshan’s extended family of over 25 members who migrated from Raichur to Bagalkot years ago, in search of work. Of the five families, only two have BPL cards and the grains are equally distributed amongst all, lasting no more than a week.

Darshan stays with his father, mother, three siblings, grandfather and his aunt. In his small tent, there are three torn, unwashed blankets, about five empty vessels, some tomatoes and onions strewn on the floor, few clothes hanging on the clothes line, a lamp and a hen running around. That’s all they have amassed in all these years. His mother is the only earning member; she makes around 10-12 fishing nets every month and works in the nearby factory that manufactures zips. If all goes well, she manages around Rs 3, 000 – 4, 000 a month. But Darshan’s grandfather says, “Such months are rare. In the last decade, I can count the number of months when there was enough to eat for more than 20 days.”

In this distressing scenario, young Darshan started showing excessive TB symptoms around three months ago. His grandfather says, “He had severe cough which would last throughout the night. All his mother would do is put him on her lap and pray to God. Finally, after about two weeks, we took him to the private hospital in Bagalkot where he was admitted for 15 days. His treatment each day cost Rs 2, 000 and we took a loan. But there was only slight improvement. Later, his Mantoux diagnosed him with pulmonary TB and the doctor put him on ATT (Anti-Tuberculosis Treatment).”

It’s been a little over a month since Darshan has been taking medicines. Every week, he goes for a check-up which costs the family at least Rs 200 (doctor’s fees and transport charges). They spend a few hundreds on his medicines every month since they buy it from the chemist. Despite the dire situation they live in, the family isn’t comfortable taking Darshan to the RNTCP.

Darshan’s father says, “It doesn’t matter how much we have to spend, we will not take him to the government hospital for treatment. I know everything is free but I don’t trust the facilities. Years ago, my own mother succumbed to TB because the doctor didn’t treat her well.”

To this, Darshan’s grandfather adds, “The private doctor also didn’t refer us to the government hospital though he knows our financial condition. Perhaps, he too doesn’t think it’s a safe idea.”