A group of medics from the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri has stood with farmers hundreds of kilometres away along the borders of Delhi by providing medical aid to the protesters.
Braving the harsh cold and staying in tents, the eight young medics of the NBMCH took turns to associate themselves with the non-profit Medical Service Centre (MSC) camped along the Singhu border between December and February.
“The camps opened at 10 am and continued till 6 pm. Around 200 people would turn up at both the base and mobile camps every day for medical treatment at the OPDs. Most of the farmers had cough and cold, diarrhoea, skin diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The local people of Singhu would also visit the camps for medical treatment. There were also some elderly farmers who suffered from arthritis,” said a house-staff of the psychiatry department at the NBMCH, Manjur Akhtar.
Dr Akhtar attended the medical camps from 20-27 December.
A medical intern, Sushree Sangita Jena, had been at the border for eight days in January. “We were touched by the humanity of the participants of the movement there. A resident of Punjab gave us jackets and sweaters as the temperature would vary between four-five degrees Celsius,” she said, adding that they would respond to emergency calls in the nights too. The 24-year-old had earlier attended the camps set up by the Centre during the floods in Assam and in Puri, when Cyclone Fani struck Odisha in 2019.
Doctors associated with the MSC from other parts of the country, including Kolkata, have been running the camps to ensure medical help for the farmers. Many doctors have camped on the Tikri and Ghazipur borders.
The medics also came across some young persons who were suffering from opioid withdrawal syndrome.
“A section of young men, mostly from Punjab, who used to take drugs, were suffering from body ache and irritation following the withdrawal of the long-time habit. We would give them symptomatic medicines and counsel them. But I must mention they never returned home for the drugs, but firmly held the ground at the protest sites,” Dr Akhtar, in his mid-20s, said.
Dr Shahriar Alam, a senior house staff of the orthopedics department, recalled how they had cured an elderly protester. “A 70-year-old person suffered a heart failure due to hypertension. We immediately took him to a nearby hospital, but there was an Ayurvedic doctor at the emergency that time. As he needed immediate medical care, we guided in his treatment and he was better,” he said. According to Dr Alam, he was amazed to see the tremendous grit and determination of the farmers protesting the three farm sector laws approved by the central government.
“The farmers, despite the adverse situations there, send across a message of unity and shows everyone their fighting spirit,” Dr Alam said.
According to the doctors, they ate at ‘langars’ set up by the farmers, while activists of the Majha Kisan Sangharsh Committee, many of them who are pursuing master degrees in humanity and science, would also serve them food.
Dr Anik Mondal, who returned from Singhu after almost two weeks on 20 February, recalled how he received “affection and care” from the elderly women at the protest sites. “They kept asking me to have food,” he said. The MSC conducts the medical camps across India during disasters, apart from routine camps. The central committee member of the MSC and the in-charge of the critical care unit at the Calcutta Heart Clinic & Hospital, Dr Subhankar Chatterjee, said they also held health awareness programmes among the farmers at the borders.