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Khati life & death (revisited) ....

INDIA | Wednesday, 6 April 2011 | Views [590]

6th March

After a long spell of rain we have finally awoken to a clear blue sky. The fields are a verdant green with the barley and wheat crops. Those that have lain fallow for winter are in the process of being ploughed in preparation for planting the potato crop with the whole town up at first light this morning. The cycle/rythms of the seasons and farming continue...

Our friend Khasti is nine months pregnant. Last night we were called to her house to discover that for three days she has been in severe pain with her stomach and back and she looks shocking. It is worth noting that because pregnancy is a 'women's' issue it's a big decision to seek outside help/advice. After a preliminary check-up it was decided she would go out to the Bageshwar hospital at first light. This morning she left via walking/jeep. All we can do now is play the waiting game until we hear news from the hospital in the next twenty four hours. Unfortunately, like most government hospitals in India, the Bageshwar hospital is ill equiped to deal with pregnancy complications. Previously two village women were sent from Bageshwar to Almora Base Hospital but while their lives were saved both of the babies died.

Romati lost her baby boy on the 20th February. At over 40 years of age she fell into the 'high risk' category for delivery complications. To add to the already sad state of affairs over the death of a child, due to cultural norms she still had to spend eleven lonely days in the cattle shed. There were no celebrations or naming ceremony at the end of the time frame. Khati is meant to have a local anam (nurse) who comes to the village every month to check up on pregnant women, but she has not returned since the death of Khunti in childbirth. The government Doctor is here for a ten day stretch but the villagers simply tell us "he is no good".

I have continued to be haunted by the landslide in Saung in September that decimated a building at the primary school, killing 18 children and injuring 10. I continued to have images in my mind of what I had been told by the men who had dug the children out. For a long time I thought of Pankaj (a friends son) being pulled from the mud and rubble. Three days ago I had the absolute face of grief staring back at me. As Pandit - who runs a modest chai/samosa stall - sat down across the table from us while trying to old back the tears (unsuccessfully) calmly described how his three children (two girls and one boy) came to work with him on that fateful day at 9am, then they happily trotted off to school. At 10am he heard an unearthly sound reverberate off the cliff face opposite, within minutes the town's men had flooded onto the site (including himself) and began the frantic task of digging.... Amongst the 18 killed were his three children. It was the most gut wrenching story and I still have a heavy heart. That is nothing compared to Pandit who suffers unfathomable grief, a silent house and who stares at the clock between 9-10am every day and dissolves into tears.

The tragedy occurred in a government building so the State and Central governments have offered compensation packages to the parents of all children involved.Families who lost a child will receive 100 000 Rs from both government agencies and those with injured children 50 000 Rs.

Though Pindari region is now within the boundaries of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, the mooka/jula (lichen) workers came into the valley in the first week of February. I'm not entirely sure of the legitimacy of the trade but the first loads have been bagged into hessian sacks and have left the valley for sale across Indi. Our friend Amit in Delhi sells the product at his 'spice stall' as`a cooking herb, it is also widely used as a dye. The mooka workers are low paid (though I have heard rumours they get 50 Rs a kilo), usually Nepali workers who tough it out in the forest with minimal essentials for weeks on end to ply their trade.

The dalight hours are stretching out and migratory birds continue to make their way up the valley. Despite appalling weather over the ast few weeks we have seen little snow in Khati, but the surrounding mountains have received a 'decent dumping'. The first intrepid tourists have been staying at Dhakuri to experience snow and to take in mountain vistas. And within the next months the snow on the trails up both valleys will melt and the trekking season will be officially declared open.



Tags: child deaths, compensation packages, government hospitals, khati life, lichen, pregnancy complications, saung landslide, trekking



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