Hundreds of children’s deaths at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur due to lack of oxygen supply had shaken the whole country last year. This year, the medical college is in the spotlight again, as it was found that the 11 contractual workers of the college’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) department for Encephalitis survivors (who invariably end up with disabilities), are not being paid their salaries since last three years. Whenever they submitted a memorandum asking for the salary, BRD's administration and state ministers told that they would look into the matter and see what can be done.
The workers had received their last salaries in 2015. No one talks about the previous years’ salaries. While a sensitive department is being run without doctors, and the workers are not being paid since three years, chief minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath, last week inaugurated the Composite Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) worth crores, while continuing to ignore the issues faced by the workers of PMR department.
The 11 contractual workers of the PMR department take care of people with encephalitis, and other disabled kids. The department was established on 28th February, 2011, and 37 posts were created. But only 17 of these posts were filled, and only three of the people employed were doctors. After non-payment of salaries, three doctors and three others have left their jobs. These appointments were done on a contractual basis. Now, four therapists (a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, and a clinical psychologist), one steno, one prosthetic worker, and five fourth class employees are associated with the department.
Over the last few months, Rajnish Dubey, Principal Secretary (Revenue) has visited the college many a times, but every time, while faced with the question of non-payment of the salaries, he only said that he will look into the matter.
Speaking to Newsclick, a therapist associated with the department, who chose to remain anonymous, said, "Since March 2018, we are getting our salaries, but we have not yet received the salaries from the year 2015, up to February, 2018. The central government had set up the PMR department in 2010 under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government, in which it was agreed that the department will deal with handicapped Encephalitis survivors and others disabled kids as well. In the beginning, all was going smoothly because the central government had funded the department but after one year (2012), the fund ceased."
He went on to add, "I, along with other workers, went to Lucknow to meet the Director General regarding our salary, and he sorted out this issue. We then received the salaries for two years (March, 2013-March, 2015). Till March 2015 we hadn’t received our salaries."
Raising a very sensitive issue, the therapist said, "Death of children due to encephalitis becomes a headline and a national debate, but what about those 70 percent children who become handicapped and face disabilities? No one talks about them, no prime time on those kids, just because they are alive. We should not forget that their condition becomes worse than the ones who die."
It is written in government orders that for disabled kids, there should be arrangements made on ground floor, but here, in BRD, the PMR department is on the third floor. The arrangement works for the smaller kids, but carrying the older kids to the upper floors becomes extremely difficult.
Newsclick also spoke to the BRD Medical College’s Principal, Ganesh Kumar. "Since I have joined the medical college, the people are getting their salary on time, but I don't know about the due salaries. Once the district administration allows, they will get their salary," he told Newsclick.