Better late than never. We have the pleasure in sharing information on an event that occurred on 19 September 06 at Keonjhar which we received from Mr. Biplab Mishra along with photographs. The event is indicative of how mass awareness can make administration answerable and responsive.

More than a thousand women, coming from all the 13 Blocks of the mineral-rich but economically undeveloped hilly district of Keonjhar, voiced their concern over safe motherhood in a unique program styled as “Safe Motherhood Adalat”, coordinated by Prakalpa, a leading NGO of the district. The Orissa State Commission for Women (OSCW) as well as the Unicef supported Prakalpa in this endeavor.

Chaired by Mrs. Namita Panda, chief of OSCW, the Adalat heard a lot of pertinent issues and cases related to safe motherhood as raised by the women participants. While welcoming the Adalat, Secretary of Prakalpa, Mr. Biplab Mishra, regretted that in spite of lots of propaganda, a government programme rarely reaches the people in remote areas. There are discernible gaps in service delivery like registration of marriage, ante-natal and post natal care and institutional delivery etc. for which rate of Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality is in the rise. Ms. Kusum Mohapatra, another functionary of Prakalpa explained the modus-operandi of the Adalat. Then the women participants raised their allegations.

One instance:

A very poor tribal lady from Sibanarayanpurgoda in Telkoi block, Mrs. Gitanjali Naik, alleged that she had been to the Telkoi Primary Health Center for delivery of her child in a condition of severe bleeding. The Medical officer referred her to District Headquarter Hospital (DHH), Keonjhar, noting that her condition was very critical. She reached the DHH and registered for confinement. But then the O&G specialist asked her for money to conduct an operation. She and her husband had no money with them to give and the Doctor had no mercy to show. So, immediately her husband ran to his village and sold their land at a throw away price and came back with money and gave Rs.2200/- to the doctor.

On hearing her allegations, the Adalat where the Chief District Medical Officer, District Social Welfare Officer and Collector were present to answer, summoned the concerned doctor, who was eventually identified by Gitanjali.

The Chairperson and Member of Orissa State Commission for Women directed the CDMO to look into the matter and settle the grievance of Gitanjali. The CDMO was further directed to ensure that such type of incidences is not repeated in the district, which he promised to comply with.

Collector of the District Mr. Sushil Kumar Lohani told in his reply to various allegations on administrative apathy and malfeasances, that the women in groups should come forward to protest against corruption and demand services meant for them not only in health sector but also in other sectors too. As the Chief of District administration, he declared, that all the issues of public interest raised by women en masse will be looked into with utmost priority, he assured.

This was a unique initiative where women from remote areas were brought to a single platform to voice their problems and difficulties in availing mother & child health care to the district administration in this first of its kind Adalat that makes administrators conscious of their answerability to the society.

The Adalat was inaugurated by Mrs. Namita Panda, Chairperson of OSCW and addressed by its member Dr.(Mrs.) Biswa Kalyani Das, as well as by Mr. Debajit Mitra, Unicef, Dr. Usha Tripathy, Chief District Medical Officer, Mrs. Jamuna Triya, District Social Welfare Officer and Mr. Purna Chandra Nayak, Additional District Magistrate,Keonjhar.

Photographs by Biplab Mishra

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