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Release Prof. G.N Saibaba

By Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni

24 June, 2014
Countercurrents.org

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE UNION MINISTER OF HEALTH AND FAMILY WELFARE REGARDING MEDICAL TREATMENT OF A DETAINEE, PROFESSOR G.N. SAIBABA LODGED IN NAGPUR JAIL

Dated: 24 June, 2014

Dear Dr. Harsh Vardhan,

On the eve of anniversary of the imposition of Internal Emergency (1975-1977), one writes this letter to bring to your knowledge the plight of Prof. Saibaba, lecturer, Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University and who is presently lodged at Nagpur Jail since 9 May, 2014. Media reports indicate that he is not getting the medical attention and service due to him. For ready reference I may inform you that Prof. Saibaba suffers from Post Polio Residual Paralysis of both lower limbs since age 5 years. He also has weakness of upper limbs. He suffers from acute low back pain due to the disturbed anatomical configuration of his bones and spine. He also suffers from cardiac problem and has high blood pressure. Prof. Saibaba is wheel chair bound and needs the services of an attendant for activities of daily living. Both his lower limbs are shrivelled up and he is unable to use Indian style toilet provided to him in jail.

Reports indicate that for over a month he has not been provided medication for his high blood pressure which puts him at risk of getting a brain hemorrhage, a heart attack and in the longer term, kidney failure. In the absence of an attendant he has to crawl like an animal to use the toilet seat. In view of the crumpled up posture that he has to adopt he gets excruciating pain in the back.

Being a qualified orthopedic surgeon opinion has been sought from the undersigned on Saibaba’s maze of ailments. The undersigned happens to have submitted his thesis on Post Polio Residual Paralysis of the lower limbs while pursuing post-graduation at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi. Subsequently, the undersigned has worked at Safdarjung hospital and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi as Research Fellow and Research Associate in the Rehabilitation Department researching on disability evaluation and disability due to Post Polio Residual Paralysis. Though one has no official status to talk of – one is involved in people’s health movement/campaign – but after working with leprosy patients for seven years on voluntary basis one has a very good idea of what disability does to a fellow human being. Incidentally Prof. Saibaba suffers from 90% permanent disability. One writes this letter to you as one is aware of your track record and the keen interest you have shown in preventing and eliminating polio in India through Pulse Polio Immunization Programme. Unfortunately the jail authorities in Nagpur are trying to eliminate Prof. Saibaba himself through their acts of omission and commission. As many of your party men (belonging to the then Jan Sangh) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers were jailed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi during the infamous Emergency era along with people owing allegiance to different political ideologies and even common men and women both young and old, you would appreciate that specialist medical services are non-existent in Indian Jails particularly for those who are 90% physically disabled.

Prof. Saibaba needs a wheel chair and an attendant round the clock; western style toilet-seat; medication for his high blood pressure; basic investigations like ECG and Echo; daily physiotherapy and occupational therapy; heat therapy for his low back; a special brace for the low back pain; a hard bed with mattress to name just a few. One would know this as one is aware of his medical and orthopedic ailments.

Sir, reports also indicate that he has been lodged in a dark, solitary cell. You would appreciate that the bones of his lower extremities in particular are thin and osteoporotic already. If he is not allowed to have sunlight in his ‘anda’ cell, his bones would become further weak and osteoporotic leading to pain and even pathological fracture of the concerned bone. You could take it on authority that these pathological fractures are extremely difficult to manage surgically or otherwise. Since I do not have access to his latest reports of calcium, serum phosphate and alkaline phosphatase; as also the bone densitometry report and the vitamin D3 levels, it will be unethical for me to opine on whether he needs Vitamin D administration or not.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks was forced to take refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London and to prevent his bones from becoming osteoporotic due to absence of sunlight in his room he had to take recourse to a gadget called sunlamp. He is able to get artificial sunlight which enables the production of Vitamin D in his bones. Prof. Saibaba could at least be provided a sun-lamp!

Ideally he needs to be admitted in a hospital for a short while to get his baseline investigations undertaken. Alternatively, the jail doctors could be apprised of the urgent medical needs of Prof. Saibaba. As doctors under Hippocratic Oath it is our duty to ensure that the detainee is provided best of medical care due to him. If any payments are to be made Prof. Saibaba’s well-wishers would readily reimburse the same to the jail authorities.

No doubt Prof. Saibaba has been charged under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Sir, you would recall that Mr. George Fernandes – who in later years was installed as Union Defence Minister in the BJP led NDA Government – had been jailed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi during the Internal Emergency era in the Baroda Dynamite Case. The CBI charged Mr. Fernandes and others on false and made-up charges of smuggling dynamite to blow up government establishments and railway tracks in protest against the state of Emergency. They were also charged with waging war against the State to overawe and overthrow the government. They were arrested in June 1976 and imprisoned in Tihar Jail, Delhi. This case was politically motivated and Mr. Fernandes emerged unscathed. Prof. Saibaba’s case, too, needs to be withdrawn.

Sir, you would also recall that Shri S. Jaipal Reddy, too, was in jail for 17 months during the Internal Emergency years. He, too, suffers from Post Polio Residual Paralysis of both lower limbs since age 2 years. He, too, is wheel chair bound but is able to walk a few steps with elbow-crutches. Shri Reddy, again with 90 % disability, was imprisoned at a time when fundamental rights were suspended during the Emergency period. Presently at least no such Emergency has been declared and even then people with ‘infirmity’, like Prof. Saibaba are being interned. This apart, Prof. Saibaba should at least be granted the same facilities in jail which were extended to Shri S. Jaipal Reddy during 1975-77! Article 14 at least permits this minimal demand to be made of the present dispensation at the Centre.

Sir, Prof. Saibaba comes from an oppressed caste and a humble economic background. Through sheer grit and hard work he struggled to become a lecturer at Ram Lal Anand College, Delhi University. His torture and incarceration in jail is evidence enough that the political establishment is doing an ‘Eklavya’ on him.

Thanks.
Yours truly,
Dr. Paramjit Singh Sahni,
M.B.B.S., M.S. (Ortho)
& Secretary, Public Interest Litigation Watch Group
Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com





 

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