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In Behrampura, every family has a TB patient Monday, April 2, 2001
AHMEDABAD: It's fashionable to talk about AIDS prevention, sport red ribbons and organise charity events. But in all this fuss, another disease tuberculosis has been all but forgotten. Except by residents of Behrampura and Jamalpur areas of Ahmedabad who have lost many loved ones to the disease. Or by 45-year-old Roshanbhai Ahmedbhai who gasps for air after just a few steps. Suffering from tuberculosis for over a year now, this resident of Behrampura is waiting quietly for death.
The figures are even scarier than Roshanbhai's plight. Every single family of this area has lost at least one member to TB. Every single household in these areas has at least one member suffering from tuberculosis. While one may be the minimum number, it can go as high as five to six! This stark reality was confirmed by even standing committee chairman of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Badruddin Shaikh a few weeks back.
The percentage of TB patients in Gujarat is the maximum in Ahmedabad with 7,000 patients. Of this, almost 450 are from the South Zone, that is Behrampura and Jamalpur, says District TB officer Dr Jeetendra Adhia. "These are the official numbers that we have. There may be a huge number of patients who have TB whom we don't know of," adds Adhia. Roshanbhai of Behrampura lost his daughters from TB and is a patient himself. "A lot of people have been dying of TB in our areas for the past many years and almost every household has lost loved ones to this disease,'' says Roshanbhai.
He blames the AMC-run TB hospital in the area for "spreading germs all around". Another resident of the area agrees. ``I have lost my in-laws, brother-in-law and husband to TB over the years. Earlier, during Ashok Bhatt's regime, he had promised to shift the hospital to the suburbs as it was spreading a lot of germs. But that has not happened," says Bhanabi, a social worker living in Behrampura.
District TB officer Dr Jeetendra Adhia says that this is a misconception. "Having a TB hospital in the vicinity does not spread TB as much as is found in these areas. The actual reasons are ignorance and apathy at all levels. The people are not educated, there is a lot of pollution and congestion and the people are very poor," says Adhia.
Moreover, with a number of textile mills around the area, some people were already suffering from bysionossis, a killer disease that spreads because of the cotton flying around. "After the mills closed, unemployed workers began drinking and this caused the TB to worsen," explains Adhia.
Social worker Usmangani A Pipadwala of Chhipa welfare General hospital has been crusading against TB since 1971. He says the areas are highly congested and almost 10-12 people live in a tiny space. "The germs spread easily due to this. Moreover, they are illiterate and very poor,'' says Pipadwala, though he feeels that the TB hospital in the area may have a role to play in the spread of the disease. Presently, AMC is distributing free medicines under its New Revised Programme, funding for which comes from the World Bank.
"There is no awareness generated for TB while for other diseases, there's much hue and cry. Even the attitude of the administration is such that the staff is sent to a TB hospital as a sort of punishment," says Adhia.