'Right to healthcare, life compromised': Doctors voice concern for J&K patients in open letter to Union govt

  • A group of twenty doctors has issued a public statement on Thursday expressing concern about the public health situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • In particular, the medical professionals have expressed concerns about the absence of functional ambulance systems, mental health challenges and pellet gun injuries.

  • The statement said, 'The rights of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to healthcare and right to life is currently being compromised (sic).'

Twenty doctors came together Thursday to issue a public statement expressing concern about the public health situation in Jammu and Kashmir even as restrictions remain in place in parts of the state.

The medical professionals, in their open letter, expressed concern about the absence of functional ambulance systems, mental health challenges and pellet gun injuries.

On Thursday, restrictions were eased in most areas of Kashmir with barricades being lifted and the movement of people and traffic increasing gradually, but markets remained shut and mobile and internet services suspended for the 18th day.

Stop using of pellet guns

The statement says, "In the absence of functional ambulance systems, people are often forced to take private vehicles which are often treated with suspicion... Even those who have to access healthcare on an emergency basis are stopped at the check-posts and some are even arbitrarily denied access as decided by the army personnel. Seeking medical care seems to be a life threatening activity by itself."

On the usage of pellet guns, the doctors said, "The use of pellet guns on unarmed civilians and sometimes even on children can cause permanent disability, is of grave concern and is against basic human rights. In the interest of public health, we call upon these professional bodies to demand that the use of pellet guns by the army against civilians has to be completely stopped."

Multiple international media reports have said security forces used metal pellets to quell protests. While the Union government initially denied injuries due to pellet guns, the Jammu and Kashmir Police later said that there were pellet injuries due to "stray incidents" in Srinagar, as reported by The Hindu.

The doctors have demanded that professional bodies from various branches of medicines should coordinate with the government "to put together teams of doctors to understand and address current issues in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that there are no gaps in service provision." They have also called for removing the communication blockade in Kashmir.

In conclusion, the statement said, "The rights of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to healthcare and right to life is currently being compromised (sic). The professional health bodies of India should affirm basic rights of the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, to communication and access to all levels of primary, secondary or tertiary healthcare, both private and government...The Indian government should commit itself of the responsibility of healthcare and public health for the lakhs of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir."

Statement comes in backdrop of Lancet controversy

Only days earlier, an editorial in the medical journal Lancet  stating that the presence of military personnel in Kashmir "raises serious concerns for the health, safety, and freedoms of the Kashmiri people" sparked controversy.

It further noted, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi vows that his decision to revoke autonomy will bring prosperity to Kashmir. But first, the people of Kashmir need healing from the deep wounds of this decades-old conflict, not subjugation to further violence and alienation."

In response, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said the British medical journal has no locus standi on the matter and has committed "breach of propriety" by commenting on the political issue.

The association said the medical journal has reacted to an internal administrative decision of the Government of India under the garb of concern for the health of Kashmiris and questioned the "malafide intention behind the uncalled-for editorial".

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Aug 22, 2019 17:54:49 IST