OPINION | Meghalaya's 49 years of lacking vision
By Lurshaphrang Shongwan
Before I give my comment on this topic, allow me to present first the facts, figures and statistics to understand the magnitude of the problem of cancer.
According to the World Health Organisation Fact Sheet dated 12th September 2018, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for about 9.6 million deaths, or one in six deaths in 2018.
Further, according to the statistics of the International Agency For Research on Cancer Globacon Online database updated on 14th December 2020, it has estimated that cancer has risen to 19.3 million cases and 10 million cancer deaths in 2020 alone.
When looking at the statistics of cancer cases in India, according to the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) Report 2020, released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on 18th August 2020, it has estimated that there were 13.9 lakh cases of cancer in India in 2020, and the number is likely to rise to 15.7 lakh by 2025.
Further, according to this report, the total number of cancer cases registered in the State of Meghalaya in the year 2012-2016 is 7,520 (4,688 males and 2,832 females), and East Khasi Hills district alone has recorded the total number of 4,613 (2,884 males and 1,729 females) which by now would have doubled in number.
Cancer is not only the worst nightmare but the bitter reality that individuals and families have to endure because of the long procedural treatment with truncated or fewer assurances for recovery and with no respite of exerting tremendous physical, emotional, psychological and financial burdens on individuals and families.
For families who have faced this problem, they would agree this is similar or sometimes worse than the Theory of “Economic Drain” propounded by Dadabhai Naoroji in his 1871 book.
It is disheartening to see that after attaining 49th years of statehood, despite the magnitude of the problem rising annually, our state is still not equipped with the proper infrastructure, materials and professionals to combat this problem.
We do not have our own specific dedicated cancer hospital in the state to treat the patients, and many times, individuals who have ways and means got themselves treated from other cancer hospitals outside the state.
But what about the have-nots? Whether they don’t deserve the same treatment and care?
If you happen to visit or stay at the Oncology ward of a cancer hospital, you will see many patients without hope, severe pain, sufferings, confusion, exhaustion of capital, physical and mental peace of all the involved individuals due to lacking facilities.
Many times we have heard the assurances given by the state authorities stating that setting up of a separate dedicated cancer hospital for cancer patients is in progress or is going to be set up soon on a specific given location in our state.
The people of the state have waited patiently and are waiting for that moment to happen and have always found hope and comfort on this assurance.
But unfortunately, everything seems so extremely slow, like the three-toed sloth which comes along with a long list of reasons and excuses for the delay. The more the delay, the meaningless the assurances, for cancer is the number one opponent of time, cancer treatment is a race against time and time is precious, and the essence is time itself.
We cannot also deny the fact that with little available resources in hand there are a handful of dedicated health workers and professional doctors doing their best to serve the patients in every way but this is not enough and will never be enough with lacking resources, materials and support from the state authorities.
Some may be rest assured in the word of “them” being the unfortunate, but the leaders, bureaucrats and professional health workers under a moral obligation have the responsibility and accountability to every patient suffering from cancer in the state.
It is also the moral responsibility and obligation of various hospitals which are not equipped in treating cancer that on early detection of its signs and symptoms to act as a guiding star in pointing the correct direction to enable them to get proper treatment at the earliest stage and not to be an opportunist to build an empire out of someone sweat and blood.
Therefore, I urge the concerned authorities to ponder on this issue and to step yourself in the shoes of those individuals and their families to understand the gravity of the problem.
Giving assurances and doing little will not help much but collective responsibility, sincerity and seriousness, effort, dedication and speedy action of the concerned authorities to solve this problem is the need of the hour.
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writer alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.