Mainstream, VOL LV No 6 New Delhi January 28, 2017
Demonetisation: Stories of Flesh and Blood
Tuesday 31 January 2017
by Shah alam khan
Beyond the orgasms of patriotism and far from the rhetoric of nationalism breathes the real India, an India of flesh and blood. And no matter what amount of chest-thumping some among us do, it is getting clearer by the day that it was this real India which bled white following the demonetisation drive announced by the government on November 8, 2016. And it wasn’t about ATMs or banks or GDP, or the growth rates, it was about people. No wonder, stories of real India are the ones, which are so full of blood and flesh!
Krishna (name changed) was supposed to bring his six-year-old to us from a remote village near Jhansi for an imminent life and limb-saving surgery. The little one had cancer of the thigh bone. She had finished chemo-therapy and was due for surgery. Demoneti-sation delayed the sowing of Krishna’s crops, which in turn delayed his and his daughter’s return to Delhi. A previous study by us had shown that every one week delay of surgery after chemotherapy in bone cancers, increased the risk of the disease coming back by two folds. We operated on Krishna’s daughter after a delay of two months! The family was happy, we weren’t, realising very well what will happen in the months to come!
By all standards Krishna’s six-year-old was lucky. Priya (name changed) with a similar diagnosis, a twelve-year-old from Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh), couldn’t make it at all to Delhi. Her father, a daily wage labourer, did all his calculations with the available funds and decided against coming for surgery. In the absence of work due to cash crunch, a prospective trip to Delhi for further treatment with us would have put him and his four other children into jeopardy. I called him the other day; he apologised in the most sombre manner and told me that though Priya’s tumour has grown big, her pain is less. She was happy to be in the company of her siblings. He had reconciled to fate! On coaxing to come, he disconnected, never to take our call again as if we didn’t exist.
Aslam (name changed), the twenty-year-old tall guy from a village in Moradabad, had been waiting for surgery on a deformed leg. He had never walked straight and was alive to live this dream. We did a bit of geometry on his x-rays and decided to give him a chance to walk again though there would be a cost of the implants used for this surgery. He willingly agreed, and borrowed a sum of thirty thousand rupees from the village money-lender. The money was given to him in the afternoon of November 8 and by the end of that day Aslam’s dream and his money had been reduced to dust. He now works to pay off his loan. He says surgery can happen in future; a future which now appears to have been swallowed by darkness.
I don’t know if demonetisation will be useful to purge out black money from the veins of India but I am sure that demonetisation has tried to purge the poor India! As a nation we have yet again failed the common, poor Indian. Nations are not about boundaries and maps, or about mighty Himalayas and the vast Thar. Neither is it about a tricolour or an anthem. Nations are about beating hearts and warm breaths; of dreams and hopes, of a common future. Nations can never be more important than its people, never. Nations don’t make us, we make a nation. And what use would a nation be to the likes of Krishna, Priya or Aslam if it bled them to death in the name of cleansing its economy? Why is the greater good of a nation always on the corpses of the poor? Why the hell do poor not filter through into the impervious imagination of our rulers? It evades my thought!
Prof Shah Alam Khan belongs to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.