Jammu: The first thing that strikes one while walking around in Suchetgarh village – a small village in R S Pura sector in Jammu and Kashmir located along the international India-Pakistan border- are damaged houses and gloomy faces of the villagers. There is no end to the misery of villagers, mostly farmers, living in Suchetgarh village which is 20 kms away from Jammu city. The village is home to over 200 families who are victims of the prolonged border conflict between India and Pakistan. When the guns fall silent for a few days, the villagers slog day in and out to compensate for the days when they were off work. During monsoon season, their problems are aggravated. Along with every thud of mortar shells, they have to deal with venomous snake bites too.
In October 2018, Sardari Lal was bitten by a venomous snake while he was grazing his buffaloes in the farm. Minutes later, he was taken to the nearest hospital in R.S Pura, which is 7 kms away, on a motorcycle, where he was referred to the Government Medical College (GMC) hospital in Jammu. “I became unconscious at R.S Pura hospital and gained senses two days later. I have no idea how it all happened. All I remember is that my son took me to the RS Pura Hospital and after that I have no clue. But you see, I could have died if we had no vehicle.” The case of Sardari Lal is not unique. The villagers have lost count of such incidents.
Sardari Lal recalls how his neighbour died due to snake bite as there was no ambulance to carry him to the hospital, which is located too far from the village.
Battered with splinters and shells, there is only one dispensary in the entire village. The dispensary was formed under the National Health Mission (NHM) in 2016. The dispensary lacks basic facilities like bed, first aid kit and bandage. “If you are bitten by snakes or are hit by a mortar shell, this dispensary has nothing to offer. They don’t even have the first aid kid. They have basic medicine for gastric problems or crocin (common painkiller). The dispensary only there for namesake,” said Janak Raj, Sarpanch of the village.
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Inside the dispensary, there are rusted tables and chairs and a pharmacist sits with a register before him to record the patients. Speaking to NewsClick, the pharmacist said, “There is an immediate need of ambulance so that the villagers can be taken to the nearby hospital on time. You can see there are no beds here, only the most basic medicines and no other facilities.”
Dotted with BSF jawans, the villagers wait for the days when shelling doesn’t take place.
“It has been over 10 days since shelling has not taken place. Whenever shelling takes place, we have to vacate the village and reach the nearby school. While vacating the village, if a splinter hits someone there is no facility to take him to the hospital. By the time we manage to carry the person to the hospital, often the victim dies,” another villager, Ramesh said. Villagers said that they have to take the help other civilians or BSF jawans to reach the hospital.
Most of the villagers living in Suchetgarh village share their origins with the bordering Punjab province of Pakistan. The villagers came and settled in the village in 1947 and 1965. Since then, they have been living in the village. However, even after living in the village for decades, the villagers don’t enjoy the citizenship rights of Jammu and Kashmir. Denied of citizenship rights, the villagers cannot avail the benefits like those of Jammu and Kashmir citizens.
Time and again, the villagers have protested for a hospital and ambulance in the village but all they have received are assurances. “If only assurances could have helped us, we would have happily agreed,” added Janak Raj.
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