Omar Salim, a young doctor was suddenly taken away by police officials moments after he commented on the ongoing health crisis in Kashmir because of over 20 days security clampdown by the government in the state.
According to a report in The Telegraph, a urologist at the Government Medical College, Salim had appeared at press enclave in Srinagar to speak to the media, wearing a doctor’s apron. He also held a placard that stated he was making a “request and not a protest”.
Salim had only spoken for 10 minutes when police personnels whisked him away to an unidentified location.
Attempts to locate where Salim had been taken were thwarted by the information blockade. Government spokesperson Rohit Kansal, the only official interface between the government and journalists, skipped the evening media briefing the second day running, reported The Telegraph .
Omar stated the information blockade and travel restrictions were endangering the lives of patients, particularly those who are in need of dialysis or chemotherapy.
Salim said he did not know whether the clampdown had caused any deaths but he did know patients who had had to postpone their treatment.
According to a report in The Telegraph, “I have a patient who required chemotherapy on August 6. He came to us on August 24 but could not obtain the chemotherapy medicine,” Omar said.
“Another patient whose chemotherapy drug has to be obtained from Delhi was unable to place an order for the drug. His chemotherapy has been postponed indefinitely.”
“There are patients who require three dialysis sessions every week but are coming only once a week. There are patients registered under insurance schemes who have to pay out of their own pockets (for every dialysis) costing ₹1,500 to ₹1,800. It’s not a small sum for someone earning less than ₹10,000.”
Many patients are unable to make it to hospitals or to buy medicines because of the cash crunch at the banks.
“Most important, we have 15 lakh patients registered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. We are the number one state in India in terms of the scheme’s penetration. None of the beneficiaries are able to come and claim the benefits because there is no Internet and the card system is defunct,” he said.
“(People registered with) many other health insurance schemes, like those for textile industry labourers, cannot claim the benefit because of the lack of access.”
Omar appealed to the Modi government to restore the landline connections at all the hospitals and clinical establishments to avoid “disadvantage to the patients”.
The central government had suspended all mobile, Internet and landline connectivity, although many landline connections have been restored in recent days.
“If patients don’t receive dialysis, they will die. If cancer patients don’t receive chemotherapy, they will die. Those patients who can’t be operated on can die,” he said.
In the past, Omar had spoken out against government restrictions. He had cycled 65km to his hospital this year in protest against the ban on civilian motor vehicles using the highway after the February 14 Pulwama massacre.
The government has repeatedly claimed there are no restrictions on emergency patients.