Lucknow: In a sad state of affairs, a ‘COVID warrior’ in Uttar Pradesh, who contracted the virus, was left to fend for herself when she needed medical attention the most, and died a sorry death allegedly because of apathy by the auhtorities. The woman, an Anganwadi worker, was allegedly denied admission in government medical college and after spending the entire Friday night looking for a hospital bed, passed away on Saturday afternoon, just a few hours after being treated on the floor of the same district hospital reportedly due to “non-availability” of beds.
Parvesh Dhawan, 50, affectionately known as Parvesh Madam, was a resident of Raiwala area in Saharanpur district and used to work at the Anganwadi centre in Yahya Shah. Her worked involved creating awareness on COVID-19, distributing essentials during the lockdown and taking up door-to-door COVID surveys among other work.
“She had fever three days ago and was tested positive. On Friday night, she started having breathing problems. She tried getting an ambulance and made many calls, but received no help. With an oxygen cylinder, she went around in an autorickshaw looking for a hospital bed, but to no avail. The hospitals also did not have display boards on how many beds are available and occupied (which is mandated by the government),” Babita Dhavan, a relative, told NewsClick.
"Government orders are being disregarded at the medical college's COVID ward. Patients are being treated on the floor due to non-availability of beds. My cousin too was denied a bed and when we pressured the authorities while she was having breathing problem, she was forced to sit on the floor and was given oxygen," alleged Babita.
The incident has angered local Anganwadi workers, the victim’s family members, and even Opposition parties in UP, who questioned the government and the administration that if this could happen to a ‘COVID warrior’ who has been helping the government trace positive patients, then what about other citizens.
Meanwhile, there has also been a demand for compensation of Rs 50 lakh of insurance claim, as per the government policy, to the family of deceased woman.
However, the Principal of the government medical college, Dinesh Martolia, denied any carelessness in the treatment of the woman.
District Programme Officer Asha Tripathi said that the deceased Anganwadi worker was assigned the job of door-to-door survey on COVID. She was admitted to the Shaikh-Ul-Hind Maulana Mahmood Hasan Medical College on August 18 and died on Saturday during treatment.
Dilip Shukla, Vice-President of the Anganwadi Employees Union, Uttar Pradesh, has written a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and secretary of Integrated Child Development Services and the District Magistrate of Saharanpur, complaining against alleged negligence by the hospital and demanding Rs 50 lakh as compensation.
Meanwhile, a group of Anganwadi workers also hit the road and demanded action against the CMO and hospital authority.
“Parvesh Dhawan was infected during her work and got infected during the door-to-door campaign. It is ironical that she was denied a bed in the hospital. It was hospital negligence and they should be held accountable for her death,” Rajani Rana, union secretary of Saharanpur unit of and a Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), told NewsClick.
State Anganwadi/ASHA Workers Battle Abuse, Poor Salary
Incidents of physical violence against frontline workers, such as medical professionals and ASHA workers, have been reported from across the state.
The Anganwadi workers are tasked by the district administration to conduct door-to-door surveys in residential areas and collect data on people’s medical history. They are also required to advise residents about precautions, use of masks and social distancing norms. However, despite their difficult job requirements and stressful conditions, Anganwadi workers in the state are battling several other challenges. These include harassment, violent attacks, inadequate training, lack of devices such as smartphones and denied medical facility when they are in dire need.
Shukla, Vice-President of the Anganwadi Employees Union, affiliated to CITU, told NewsClick that the plight of Anganwadi workers in Uttar Pradesh was evident by this incident. The Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government neither consider Anganwadi workers and as state employees nor as social workers, he added.
"Over 60 Anganwadi workers have died of the coronavirus so far in Uttar Pradesh but with the help of district administrations, they are not showing the cause of death as corona, Rather, these deaths are shown as due to heart-attack or other common diseases to avoid paying compensation to family members," Shukla alleged, adding that Anganwadi workers are not being provided essential facilities and safety arrangements despite being in the forefront of fighting COVID-19
Shukla said: "An Anganwadi worker earns around Rs 5,500 per month – which is Rs 183 per day – less than what daily-wagers make. Rs 4,000 is paid to mini Anganwadi workers while Rs 2,200 to helpers per month", adding that the government has been using their services to deal with COVID-19 “but does not consider them humans as two years ago, Chief Minister Adityanath had promised to give them Rs 1,500 as 'protsahan rashi' for our hard work, but he has not given us a single rupee."