PATNA: Twenty-six year old Kanahiya Kumar is much relieved after completing 14 days of isolation at his village Birpur in Vaishali district of Bihar. A hospital worker in Kankarbag, he had returned to his village in the last week of April and developed symptoms similar to those of the novel Coronavirus.
Kanahiya suspected he had contracted the virus. Since there were no testing facilities nearby he got an antigen test kit from Patna and conducted the test on himself. He says, he tested positive. Kanahiya went into isolation for 14 days, treated himself to home remedies and over-the-counter medicines for fever and cough. Kanahiya repeated the test after 14 days and is happy that he has now tested negative.
Kanahiya Kumar says he tested positive on a home test kit and self-medicated in isolation for 14 days. (Photo: Shiv Pujan Jha)
Kanahiya was lucky to have self-detected the Coronavirus infection and confined himself to isolation on time. Other residents of this remote village, located approximately 55 km from the state capital Patna and reachable after three hours of ride in an autorickshaw, is not as fortunate.
‘Village Doctor’ to the Rescue
Besides the dearth of testing centres, a general lack of awareness prevails in the village. Most of the villagers, despite having clear symptoms of cough and fever, can be spotted moving outdoors without masks.
Ramakant Singh, a village resident, told India Ahead that his sister-in-law, Girija Devi, was bedridden with fever and severe chest congestion. She developed the symptoms about five days ago and the family has been administering medicines prescribed by “a village doctor”, identified as Dhananjay Kumar.
Villagers are aware that Kumar is not a qualified doctor and has no formal training. “We just consult him and take medicines as we don’t have any option,” reasons Ramakant .
Seventy-one-year-old Shree Ram Singh complains he, too, has been having a cough for the last few days. However, he claims that he has already been inoculated with both doses of the Coronavirus vaccine. “The village has approximately 15,000 people and in almost every house you go you will find someone or the other having fever and cough. But it’s next to impossible for us to go for testing to Patna. So we are trying home remedies,” he says.
It’s next to impossible for us to go for testing to Patna. So we are trying home remedies.
Wedding Brings Infection in its Wake
Several people in the village claim to have recovered, but a large population, perhaps in hundreds, still have symptoms similar to those of the Coronavirus.
A few youngsters claimed a baraat, or a wedding procession of a groom, had arrived from Patna on April 25 in the village. The wedding was celebrated with much pomp and show, they added.
Few days after the marriage ceremony several people in the village fell ill and were treated by the village quack.
Since lockdown has been imposed now, movement from these remote villages is extremely difficult. Besides one has to cross a makeshift bridge over river Ganga near Khushrupur to reach the world outside. Villagers say, in the last one week some five people have died and been cremated. “They had cough and fever and they never had any testing done,” says Ramakant. India Ahead was unable to verify the fatality claim independently.
Local Health Care in a Shambles
Meanwhile, the Primary Health Care Centre in Birpur appears to be in a dilapidated state, with all its doors locked and weed growing into the lobby area. Locals say, till eight months ago the hospital had testing facilities but it stopped abruptly. While vaccination is being carried out at the centre at times, locals are turned away when they go for medicines, they claim.
The village is a diara area, a land created in the middle of the river Ganga. Leader of Opposition in the state, Tejashwi Yadav, is the local MLA and Pashupati Paras of the LJP is the local MP.
The villagers rue the leaders are seen only around elections and they are left to fend for themselves with home remedies to cure what they call “cough and fever”.