On May 15, one of India’s major newspapers, the Daily Pioneer, published a report about the death of an 18-month-old Birhor boy. With the news media in India crowded by stories about the devastation of the pandemic, the coverage of issues in a remote Birhor village was interesting enough. More than that, the story was significant because it pointed out the neglect of medical services in the village and the active responses by officials to the crisis that the neglect had caused.
In the Kadasar Birhor tanda (village), the Katkamsandi Block of the Hazaribagh District, the child, Ranjeet Birhor, had a cold with a cough and a fever. The village lacks any medical facilities so the father, Raj Kumar Birhor, took the child to the hospital for the block. No one there took care of the sick kid, who died in his sleep during the night.
Raj Kumar noted that the tanda lacks any vaccination facilities. Furthermore. he complained that the people had not received the free food which they were entitled to for the last several months.
When she heard about the events at the tanda, Renu Kumari, the Block Development Officer, decided to visit the Birhor village accompanied by several other local officials. As a result of their visit, she ordered the medical officer for the block to visit also. The medical team assessed the health of every Birhor there. While they were in the community, the medical people distributed free medicines to the villagers.
When news of the death of the child reached officials at the next higher level of government, the state of Jharkhand, the agriculture minister called a meeting with other officials. They reinstated the supply of free food grains and other free supplies to the Birhor tanda, which they are entitled to anyway.
Considering the responses by so many officials, is it any wonder that the death of a young child should be covered by one of India’s leading newspapers?