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PRESS RELEASE 16 March 2008

Over 125 men, women and children attended the first Free Binayak Sen Medical Camp held in the Jai Hind basti, a colony of ragpickers and domestic workers in New Delhi.

Binayak Medical Camp Delhi1

They were treated for ailments ranging from anemia and urinary tract infections among women to respiratory infections and vitamin deficiencies among children. Free medicines were handed out to patients and there are plans to train local youth in paramedical work and take up regular community health activities in the colony.

The camp was organized by the Sajha Manch and Bal Vikas Dhara as part of a nationwide initiative for the release of popular health and human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen. Dr Sen was controversially arrested in May last year on false grounds of having links with Maoists in Chattisgarh and is currently lodged in Raipur jail.

“Most of the problems among the people treated are related to poor nutrition and low quality of water” said Dr Amod, one of the doctors volunteering his services for the camp.

The menfolk in the Jai Hind colony, which has over 1500 families, mostly migrants from Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, work as ragpickers bring the garbage from nearby residential areas for sorting back to their homes. This contributes to the lack of unhygienic conditions in the area.

Binayak Medical Camp Delhi3

While local organizations, like Bal Vikas Dhara, have over the years organized the community and wrested major concessions from the local municipality such as free provision of drinking water, health check-ups and vaccination for children there are many problems that remain.
For example there are no toilets for this large community of over 10,000 people, no electricity connections and also no supply of
rations from the public distribution system.

“We are taking up these issues one by one with the authorities but still there is a lot of discrimination against rag pickers” says Subal, an organizer with Bal Vikas Dhara.

The entire colony is located on private land, controlled by some kind of land mafia that rents it out to waste contractors who are the ones who own all the houses in which the ragpickers live. Each ragpicker gets a house and a bicycle free from different contractors in return for which they have to sell (at low prices) the waste they collect every day.

The initiative, of holding monthly Free Binayak Sen Medical Camps for the urban and rural poor, in cities and towns around the country – is meant to raise public awareness about Dr Sen’s detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and call for his unconditional release.

The camps are also part of an effort to take forward Dr Sen’s innovative public health work to new areas and highlight the issues of nutrition, child health and the link between socio-economic rights and health. India has one of the worst health indicators in the world, even lower than that of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the areas of infant and maternal mortality.

Other camps are planned for March in Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Kolkata.

For further information contact:
Dunu Roy, New Delhi
Ph: 9910687627
Satya Sivaraman, New Delhi Ph: 9818514952
Dr Rakhal Gaitonde, Chennai
Ph: 9940246089
Dr Punyabrata Gun, Kolkata Ph: 9830922194
Dr N.Devadasan, Bangalore
Ph: 080-26645232