The whole world knows of the terror and violence that has engulfed Kashmir during the last 18 years. As a result, a distinct ethno-religious group of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits, has become the victim of a human tragedy of terrible magnitude.Almost the entire community of Pandits has been forced into exile.
A major segment of this population has been living in refugee camps in and around Jammu in the most miserable and hostile conditions, which have been described as ‘subhuman’ and ‘not fit even for animals’.They were housed in tents and later shifted to one-room tenements, living on petty doles, bereft of the basic amenities of life. The remaining refuges have been forced to seek their own rented lodgings because of the non-availability of support from the State Govt. Many of them have been living a nomadic life, moving from place to place in search of shelter and livelihood.
When a whole community is displaced and thrown into a totally different environment, and under the conditions that prevail in a forced exodus, the physical, mental, moral and spiritual functioning is thrown out of gear.The terrible stresses and strains that dominate the struggle for survival result in the health trauma of a magnitude and severity not witnessed before in the population. This not only precipitates the diseases known to exist but also leads to the emergence of new disease entities that were formerly relatively unknown to the population. In fact, health trauma has become a major challenge to the survival of the exiled Pandits.
The trauma of forced exodus and the exposure to an alien and hostile environment are further compounded by the problems of acclimatization, lack of basic amenities like drinking water, drainage, and sewerage, overcrowding, extremes of climate, lack of healthcare, joblessness, idleness, depression, disease and death.The medical facilities are non-existent and the cost of investigations and treatment prohibitive. The results are devastating in terms of morbidity and mortality. A whole community has aged prematurely. Multiple disease syndromes have overtaken most of them. Many diseases have struck in epidemic proportions – hepatitis, stress diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, asthma, mental and psychological disorders, malnutrition to name a few. Many have died prematurely, others are languishing and in throes of death, waiting for deliverance.
Four population surveys on the refugees, covering different periods in time over the last 17 years, reveal the frightening scenario of a vanishing population with death rates far exceeding the birth rates in the community.
The State government has failed to come to rescue and done nothing except for posting a few doctors in the camps sans medicines and investigations. The health of the refugees does not figure in the calculations of the Central government.
Displaced Doctor’s Association
Soon after landing in Jammu as an exile himself, Dr K L Chowdhury started the ‘Displaced Doctor’s Association’ in 1991 and hired a few rooms to deliver free medical aid to the refugees. Twenty-four doctors enlisted for charitable work. The service continued for 8 years. Over the years many of these pioneering doctors themselves moved out of Jammu in search of jobs.
Over this period the need for a larger facility was felt greatly.Touched by the appalling conditions and the rapidly deteriorating health scenario, a group of displaced social activists got together under the inspiring leadership of Dr K L Chowdhury in order to meet the most urgent demands of the suffering community. A small building was erected on a piece of land in the outskirts of Jammu at Durganagar donated by Sh. Trilokinath Saraf, a well-known social activist and philanthropist. The polyclinic was commissioned on 25th March 2001 and named ‘Shriya Bhat Mission Hospital and Research Center’.
Shriya Bhat Mission Hospital and Research Center
Since then the hospital is working as a multi-disciplinary clinic. Over the years some amenities have been added like an air conditioner, refrigerator, ECG machines, glucometers, nebulizers, traction apparatus etc. A medical van has been kept at the disposal of the sick patients. The Center is open to every body irrespective of cast or creed, region or religion.
There is a work force of consultants in internal medicine, neurology, general surgery, urology, orthopedics and dermatology in regular attendance.Patients are registered for examination and treatment round the week. The mission hospital has so far rendered its services tomore than 35 thousand patients.All the patients receive a free 3-4 week supply of available medicines. A mini laboratory helps with some basic investigations, again conducted free on the patients.
Medical camps: Medical camps are organized from time to time both within the premises as well as in the refugee campscovering the most prevalent diseases like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease, osteoarthritis, urological and endocrine disorders, dermatological conditions, and nutritional syndromes, etc. So far more than 45 camps have been held, drawing patients from the refugee camps and non-camp habitations.
Vaccination drive against Hepatitis-B: We have undertaken and completed the vaccination drive in two refugee camps, covering 1800 camp inmates. It is hoped to cover the whole displaced population over the coming months and years under this program.
Community Health Projects: We have initiated a community Health project under which the camp children will be regularly checked up by our doctors. After a survey in one of the camps revealed a shocking nutritional status of the children with 80% suffering from anemia we launched aMid-day meal program for them on 5th, May 2007 at camp Bhattal Bhallian near Udhampur which covers 180 school children.
Training and Research: Medical research is one of the foremost aims of the Center.We have done numerous population/health/disease detection surveys on the refugees, covering different periods in time over the last several years. All work in the hospital and camps is properly documented. This has helped the doctors in their research work in the causation of disease in displaced people. New disease entities, not heard before, have been documented and described over the years. Two medicos, a medical intern Dr. Neil Aggarwal and a medical student Ms Priya Dhar from USA conducted their summer camps in Jammu in the refugee camps under the guidance of SBMHRC. Many other research students have taken guidance from Dr K L Chowdhury in pursuing their M. Phil and doctoral thesis in various non-medical disciplines.
Medical conferences: Dr. K L Chowdhury has written a dozen research papers on the various medical syndromes afflicting the displaced population. Hepresented his data in national and international conferences including his monumental paper‘The Health Trauma of a displaced population’ in an international Medical conference in Australia.
Awards:1) Dr. K L Chowdhury was awarded the Rajive Ghandi Shiromani award in September 2007 for his outstanding service in various fields including health, community work, literature etc. The award was received by Shri Virji Bhat on his behalf.
2) Pt. R N Koul Memorial Trust Jammu gave away The Smiriti Samman of 2006 to Shirya Bhatt Mission Hospital Jammu for its missionary work in the field of Health and Disease for the poor and needy exiled population. The awardcarries cash award of Rs one lakh, a certificate and a memento.
3) Dr. S L Kachroo, an eminent surgeon and Pt Moti Kaul, one of the trustees of SBMH, have been awarded the Indira Ghandi Sadbhawana award in November 2007 for their distinguished services to the poor and needy through their association with SBMHRC
4) Indian economic Development and Research Association has announced ‘The National Achievement award for Health excellence’ to the SBMHRC and its Chairman, Dr. K L Chowdhury, to be awarded in 2008. The award includes a gold medal and certificate of merit.
Visiting doctors from abroad: Under this program we rope in Kashmiri doctors living overseas who, while on their personal visit to India, spend time in our facility to lend their expertise to our patients. Two specialists from USA, namely Dr. Hira Lal Koul, gastroenterologist and Dr. Shiban Warikoo, urologist, held camps in their respective specialties in the preemies of SBMHRC. We hope this exchange will gain momentum as more and more professionals come to learn of this program and some of our doctors are invited overseas to exchange their experiences in dealing with the health of a refugee population.
The Teams:The following teams man the institution.
1) Medical specialists
Dr. K L Chowdhury – Director, Physician and Neurologist; Dr S.L Kachroo – General Surgeon
Dr. Suresh Saraf – Urologist; Dr. V K Kachroo – Physician
Dr. R K Khosa – Dermatologist and venerologist; Dr. Sanjay Sarup – Orthopaedician
Dr. Chand Tikoo – Pathologist; VK Koul -Orthopaedician
Besides, visiting doctors from Delhi and overseas come to lend their expertise from time to time.
2) Paramedical Staff
Kiran Ganjoo –Staff Nurse,Jawahar Lal Raina – Pharmacist,Chandji Kak – Pharmacist.
Tej Krishen – Lab technician
3) Administrative Staff
RK Pandita – Manager, Virji Bhat – Finance, Romesh Raina – Projects, O.N. Bhat – Supervision
Accounts: The accounts of the hospital are maintained by Sh.O.N. Bhat treasurer who is a dedicated social activist and a well trained accountant.
The annual accounts are auditedby a chartered accountant and the income tax returns are filed every year.
The accounts are being audited monthly by the professional auditor.
The receipts and thanks letters are issued to all the donors under the signatures of the Gen. Secretary (hon.) of the trust Sh.Vir Ji Bhat.
The accounts are made available to all the donors on demand.
Income tax Exemptions under sections 12 AA and 80- G have already been secured.
The present structure is at best a suburban polyclinic, essentially catering to the dire needs of the poor patients in a few disciplines of medicine. It is not easily accessible to a large section of the displaced population, nor does it have admitting and surgical facilities. Yet the growing number of patients, both from the indigenous as well as the displaced population, mandates the urgent need for expansion.In fact the Mission hospital is an ambitious project and a part of the larger vision of establishing a modern multi-specialty hospital, which will form the nucleus for a medical institution.This will entail relocation to larger premises that will reach out to a sizeable population.
To this end we propose to acquire a large piece of land, about 10-15 canals (5-7000 sq meters), that can be developed in a phased manner over the next few years.
The first stage will be the construction of a 20-bed hospital, which will have scope for further expansion to a 200-bed hospital and research Center. The hospital will be equipped with modern gadgets for investigation and treatment – a computerized laboratory, X-ray machines, ultrasound, monitors, operation theatres with state of art gadgets, central sterilization, and a computerized filing and record section and a library to help research activities. More facilities will be added with the phased development of the institution.
The Medical Center will pursue with vigor the health awareness and educative programs that have already been initiated in the community. Disease detection camps and surveys will be organized on a larger scale.
The Medical Center will also host seminars and conferences on the burning medical issues. In due course of time a medical bulletin will be published which graduate to a regular journal. This is with the idea of accelerating research into the multifarious dimensions of health trauma in an exiled population on which a substantial material has already accumulated over the years.Excellence being the motto, the idea is to build a model institution, a legacy to be left behind for the people of Jammu when the exiled population returns to its homeland with honor and dignity. This vision can be realized only with the whole-hearted support and participation of the people. Ours is a community that has survived and sustained and we sure will prevail.
Our motto: “Joy in service”
Vir Ji Bhat
Official Website: www.sbmh.org