'Doctors who sacrificed their lives hardly got anything in return, not even compensation.'
M I Khan reports.
Dr Avinash Kumar.
Dr Ashwani Nandkuliyar.
Dr Lalan Kumar Rai.
Dr Vinay Kumar Singh.
Dr Abdul Ansari.
Coronavirus warriors all, who succumbed to the disease.
Compounding this tragedy is the fact that their families are yet to receive compensation from the central and state government.
The names listed above are just five of the 131 doctors that COVID has claimed in Bihar. Only one doctor's family, however, has received compensation.
"It is shocking that these families are yet to receive the promised compensation," said Dr Ajay Kumar, vice president of the Indian Medical Association, Bihar.
"IMA Bihar has repeatedly demanded compensation for the families of the deceased doctors since last year, but both the central and state government have disappointed us."
Dr Ajay said the central government had announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh (Rs 5 million) to family members of a doctor who caught, and succumbed to the disease, because they were treating COVID-19 patients, while the Bihar state government announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh (Rs 4 million).
"We are tired of demanding compensation," Dr Ajay adds. "If this is the reality for the families of the doctors who died fighting COVID, one can imagine the plight of the common people who became COVID victims."
According to IMA Bihar, 89 doctors have died so far in the ongoing second COVID wave; 42 doctors succumbed during the first wave last year.
"This is a big number. These doctors have sacrificed their lives to treat COVID patients," said Dr Ajay.
The families of Dr Avinash Kumar and Dr Ashwani Nandkuliyar -- who were treating COVID patients and succumbed to the infection on June 28 and July 13 last year -- are yet to receive any compensation.
"Dr Avinash Kumar died after being infected with COVID while performing his duty, but the government seems least concerned about fulfilling its announcement to provide for the families of the doctors who died due to COVID. We have lost hope as, despite the demands made by IMA Bihar, there is no response from the government," says a family member.
"The government has cheated by announcing compensation as nothing has happened till now. The central government has repeatedly lauded doctors as corona warriors for risking their lives treating infected people. Those doctors who sacrificed their lives have hardly got anything in return, not even compensation," says a member of the late Dr Lalan Kumar Rai's family.
IMA Bihar has begun collecting donations to help the families of the deceased doctors.
"We have started a COVID Shaheed Fund and appealed to people to donate generously. IMA Bihar has shared a bank account number where these donations can be deposited," says Dr Sunil Kumar, secretary, IMA Bihar.
Only one family -- that of Dr Rati Raman Jha -- has been compensated. Dr Rati, who was Samastipur district's civil surgeon, died on July 27 last year at AIIMS Patna due to COVID-19.
Dr Sunil says the IMA failed to understand how and why the central and state government has provided compensation to the family of only one doctor so far. "On the behalf of the IMA, we have submitted at least seven to eight memoranda to the Bihar government to compensate the families of all the doctors who died because they caught the infection while treating COVID patients."
Several reminders were sent to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Health Minister Mangal Pandey and the principal secretary of the health department as well. However, there has been no response.
If you would like to contribute to IMA Bihar's COVID Shaheed Fund, please do so via RTGS or NEFT.
IMA Bihar Covid Saheed Fund
Delhi account no: 90672010079247
IFSC code: CNRB0019067
*Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com