Don’t make the poor pay


I write this on the second day of the lockdown in the ICR, having read the decision of the Arunachal government to charge money from positive patients in Covid care centres (CCC). I would like to voice my opinion and hope it sounds genuine to all of you.

In March 2020, as a social work intern in the AIIMS, New Delhi, we were given several tasks, the first of which was the psycho-social analysis of the patient’s family. We had several ways to check that; sometimes using their ration card, sometimes using their income certificates. However, many times, a patient would fail to come under the category of BPL and would often fail to benefit under the known AB-PMJAY. That was the time when a social worker had to rely on her/his instincts and allow the poor to benefit.

The AIIMS attends to patients from all over India due to the service provided by the medical social welfare unit in the main building of the AIIMS, New Delhi. Having read the news that the CCCs will now be paid facilities, I am wondering where those poor will go. Like The Arunachal Times wrote: “Sources informed that many symptomatic patients are not coming forward for tests, fearing that they would be sent to paid facilities they cannot afford. Reports are also coming from across the state that people from financially weaker backgrounds are suffering as they are neither able to afford the paid facilities nor have the space in their homes to fulfill the home isolation criteria.”

Can our government not create a mechanism to exempt/reduce the charge for the poor? If they stop testing for Covid-19, who will take the blame? If they spread Covid-19 to their family members, in their small homes with one or no washroom, who will take the blame? There are many rich with their ration cards sadly in my state. However, while doing the psycho social analysis, the person in charge should make sure to scan the patient’s documents well and s/he should be vigilant and observant. At times of such pandemic, it is the responsibility of the educated ones to speak and voice out for those who cannot.

Ceemona Taku,

Rajiv Gandhi University,
Arunachal Pradesh