The queen of the hills, or “Darjeeling” as it is known, has always been a place of inspiration for me. Since the year 2006, I have been a frequent visitor to the hills, but then the smile of the residents here, in spite of all the hardships has always raised verities of questions in my mind, that has also made me grow along with the innocence that has been reigning in the blood that that flows through the veins of the people who has changed the definition of being a survivor.
We the people of the plain land have always made a rush for the beauty that this district holds but what about the condition of the people who live in rural areas, where they are plagued by various sorts of diseases every single day and have been growing up without proper medical healthcare and proper maintenance? In recent years, the town’s fragile economy has been threatened by a rising demand for environmental resources, stemming from the growing tourist traffic, budget stay and poorly planned urbanization. After seeing those costly leather jackets that the local people wear here and the sport shoes, you might think whether poverty and low living standard of people are a myth or not, but then they easily hide the small details of their stressful life very artistically and very smoothly within the innocent smiles that reflects a lot, if observed very closely.
Along with 7 of the finest doctors and medical practitioners, on 25th of February we made our way to the Takdah region of Darjeeling District to set up Free Health Camps in the rural areas of Lamahatta Himul Office (26th February), Badamtum Range Office (27th February) and in Plungdung Community Hall (28th February). The doctors are Dr. Anindita Chakraborty (MO Surgeon from WBHS), Dr. Tanmoy Ghorui (Oral and maxillofacial Surgeon), Dr. Mohidul Hasan (Dental Surgeon), Dr. BappadityaKar (MBBS and Medical Practitioner), Dr. Debolina Kar (MBBS and Medical Practitioner), Dr. Priyanko Roy (Eye Specialist) and Dr. Rakhi Mondal (Eye Specialist). We were also accompanied by Mr. Tapan Banerjee the Camp coordinator. Our first camp was at Lamahatta Region of Takdah Region of Darjeeling District.
Lamahatta is a word derived from people wearing Bukhus similar to clothes worn by Buddhist Monks as Lamas and that’s how the place got its name from the British Period. The inhabitants are mostly Tribal Buddhist people like Drukpas, Sherpa,Tamang and Yalmoos who live in peaceful coexistence with a good number of Hindu families. Nepali is the local language of the residents who reside in this place. The main sources of the villagers are of farm produce in this area. We were felicitated by the Mr. Wang ChukPalzor, the person in charge of that area along with the help of Mr. Suresh Pandey, Range Manager of Takdah District. Our second camp was held in Badamtam Range office amidst the beautiful tea gardens from where the first flush of the best quality of tea comes. Amidst the beautiful windy ranges we were helped by the rangers of that area along with the presence of Mrs. Shweta Rai the Additonal Division of Forest Officer of Darjeeling District and Dilip Kr. Biswas, The Range Officer of the Badamtum Range Office (Forest).
We had over 120 residents coming over for the health camp, held there and out of which there 73 females and 43 males. Most of the females had problem with their Eye, Dental Issues and medicinal problems. Out of 120 people 38 people had Eye Problems, 17 had Dental Problems, 52 had medicinal problems and rest of the people had issues in more than one problems. On the second camp, out of 132 patients, 68 were female and 64 were male. There were 52 people with eye problems, 10 people with dental problems, 37 people with Medical problems and 33 people with problems in each of the three departments. On the third camp there were 161 patients with 84 female and 77 male. Majority of this camp had problems with Medicinal Issues that is 76 and 44 of them had Eye related problems and 16 of them had Dental issues with 55 people having problems in three of the departments.
Medicine Department was dealing with multiple issues of Gynecological issues, Skin Rash problems, orthopedic issues and small minor issues of health problems like gastric problems. Most of the patients were suffering from LBP (Low Back Pain), OA (Osteo Arthritis), Urticaria, Phymosis, Cough and Cold, Dysmenorrhea, Amenorrhoeae, Acute Gastro Enteritis, HTN and DM. Some of the patients who had problems with cataract issues and major eye problems were referred for free treatment or for surgery to Siliguri District Hospital. Most of the people had 70% refractive error, 5% cataract issue in their eye. Apart from this they had dry eyes, conjunctivitis, vitamin deficiency issues. At the cost of Rs. 50 from every person who had power problems, spectacles were promised to be given to them through the hands of the Local Range Officer who was in charge of the area. Apart from this the most challenging part of all was building awareness for the Oral Hygiene. Poverty, depression, stress and economic problems lead to various addictions and improper oral hygiene. Most of the patients never ever used a toothbrush. In all the camps 99% of the patients were with dental caries. Some precancerous lesions were also found in their mouth due to high incidence of chewing of tobacco, smoking and drinking of alcohol. Many of them were with teeth sensitivity, bleeding gums, chronic dental pain, periodontal and peri-apical diseases. Along with Colgate, Dr. Tanmoy Ghorui conducted the Oral Hygiene Awareness Program in each of the camps and Warren Pharmaceuticals Ltd. helped to deliver the free samples of Colgate to conduct the camp successfully.