Homeopathy for curing blood cancer? Really??
Yes, really, when a poor-rich middle class family is unable to afford a 10 lakh medical bill, even a shaman can help…at least something was done for Ma, na?
India is a poor country hosting too many people without work. Normally this would be a ripe situation for launching revolutions and that may yet happen. We need further de-centralization of powers and more use of power with a sense of purpose (not just for distributing gifts to supporters).
The main problem in the coming days will be a rapid degradation in environment and the impact on health of the aam admi. The situation in India (also China) is simply alarming, you have reports of rich people ready to move out of their country for safer (healthier) pastures. In the meantime all of us who will be left behind will have to struggle with antibiotic resistance, tuberculosis and of course that familiar malady- cancer. The relatively well-off will also have to deal with obesity- diabetes which is spreading like wildfire and problems in conceiving children.
Punjab has benefited from being at the cutting edge of green revolution and is stereotyped as the home of the prosperous farmer which survives on slave labor imported from the East and North-East (also Bangladesh). Now a counter-revolution is required when the country-side is being swallowed alive by the drug menace. Not to mention that familiar malady- cancer (again).
NGOs are trying to help out in focused areas, especially the high cost of drugs that are driving poor and middle-class people to desperation. But we need much more help in cleaning up of the environment and to improve awareness amongst people about the need to use (and re-use) environmentally friendly goods.
Why not a specific initiative on the use of jute instead of plastic? Yes, previous efforts have not succeeded but perhaps we can do a better job this time. It will help impoverished jute-growers in the East, reduce our oil bill and reduce the rate of poisoning of the ground-water. Most importantly we need a sense of urgency amongst the ruling class. In the words of Tagore, when the city burns, the temple will not be spared.
Three days after her mother died, Rajinder Kaur sat quietly on the
edge of a rope cot, staring at her sandaled feet as the buzz of her
friends and family filled the courtyard of her village home in Sher
Singh Wala in rural Punjab.
The 20-year-old nursing student, with a girlish frame and long black
braid, listlessly recounted the details of her mother’s last 40 days –
from a sudden diagnosis of blood cancer to the unaffordable treatment
that left Kaur with few options but to watch the pillar of the family
suffer in the hospital until she passed away.
Kaur’s mother, who died in May, is among the latest casualties in
India’s northern state of Punjab, home to the highest rate of cancer in
India. Here, in the country’s breadbasket, 18 people succumb to the
disease every day, according to a recent report published by the state
government. There are ninety cancer patients per 100,000 people compared
to the national average of eighty. And the Malwa region, where Kaur’s
family lives, has been dubbed “the cancer belt” of the state because of
its particularly high incidence of the disease.
“We need to strike at the root,” said J.S. Thakur, professor and
researcher at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and
Research, who has conducted extensive studies on cancer in Punjab.
While the causes of cancer are complicated and still unknown, Thakur
and his team found that contaminated water from rapid industrialization
and excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high-yielding crops are
contributing to the steep rates in the state. Just miles away from the
Kaur family’s home are colossal industrial plants that have polluted the
irrigation system in the area.
Malkit Singh, a member of the panchayat, or village council, in Sher
Singh Wala, said cancer deaths affect almost every other home in his
2,000-person village. Including his: Singh lost his brother and two
cousins to cancer in the past decade.
Costly treatment is an undeniable burden for most people in this
agriculturally rich but poverty stricken region. For them, the
government assistance under the Chief Minister’s Cancer Relief Fund
scheme is only a temporary solution. When medicines cost almost 20,000
rupees ($400) per month, families are often left to make difficult
Part of that price tag comes from lack of regulation and oversight.
Some pharmacies in the region were charging more than ten times the
original price for certain cancer-related drugs, according to a private
investigation by the Bhai Ghaniya Cancer Roko Sewa Society, a local
“We focus on poor patients,” said Kultar Singh, vice president of the
group. “We started this NGO because people were being overcharged and
we were fed up with the politics.”
Their efforts have proven fruitful. Last year the team wrote a letter
to the chief justice of Punjab’s high court, prompting them to hold the
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority accountable for 46
anti-cancer drugs that are supposed to be affordable. In May, the Punjab
government rolled out a plan to provide subsidized medicines to cancer
patients at public hospitals.
Without that support, money can prove a harsh limitation.
Heeding a relative’s suggestion, Kaur said her family first visited a
private hospital in Ludhiana, where they were quoted approximately
$20,000 for her mother’s blood cancer treatment – a large amount for the
middle class farming family.
“My mom said she didn’t want such an expensive treatment,” Kaur said
of her mother’s decision. “They told us there was a 35 percent chance
she would stay alive.”
The family then consulted a homeopathic doctor, who prescribed a
range of natural medicines. But Kaur said her mother’s health quickly
deteriorated and they were forced to admit her to a
government-subsidized local hospital without regular cancer specialists.
Within a matter of days she caught an infection and passed away before
she could receive further treatment – leaving Kaur and her younger
brother, 15-year-old Manjinder, without one parent.
Kultar Singh said many families who are fighting cancer also lack the
education and awareness they need to protect themselves. His NGO is
trying to educate communities at the grassroots level.
“People fear the word cancer and it’s like a taboo,” he said.
“There’s a myth in the village that with this disease you’re bound to
die. At first, instead of going to doctors, they go to shamans and
Meanwhile, Thakur, the lead researcher, said any real solution to the
problem with require accessible clean water and a change in industrial
practices, rather than simply treating the symptoms of what has become a