Chhotan Birhor, a 28 year old laborer in India’s Jharkhand State, is receiving excellent medical care because he has a potentially life-threatening illness. As part of its continuing series of news stories on the Birhor tribal society, the Telegraph of Calcutta last week carried an article that described the measures being taken to help the man.
Chhotan, a native of Dhanbad district of Jharkhand, had gone to the state of Uttar Pradesh for work but he had fallen ill there in March. On May 14, his family brought him back to Dhanbad and took him to a hospital, but his condition did not improve. Doctors referred him to the largest medical school in the state, the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, the capital. He had a persistent fever and tests revealed that he had a blood hemoglobin percentage of 5, which is extremely low.
Chotan’s illness is of course a concern for his family. He has a young wife named Bahamani and a two-year old son, Ramesh, both of whom are dependent on his income. Professionals who are trying to assist the Birhor are also worried. Ashutosh Kumar, a teacher in Dhanbad who has done research on the Birhor, expressed his concern because the population of this society is dropping. While the Birhor had an estimated 8,000 people in the 1991 census, the figure has dropped to half that number today.
Despite the funds that the state and national governments are providing, “Birhors have been neglected for too long and now they are struggling for survival,” Kumar said. He mentioned the earlier tragic news about the Birhor people, notably the pregnant woman who died late in May while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
According to the Telegraph, the RIMS realizes the importance of the situation and is providing care for Chhotan free of charge. He seems to be responding to treatment. A nurse told the newspaper that he is improving a lot, and his hemoglobin count has reached 7.5 percent.
The older brother of the afflicted man told the paper he was quite pleased by the special care that Chhotan was receiving. “I had never expected that such a good hospital [would] take in my brother. I am thankful to the hospital authorities,” he said. The continuing media coverage of this peaceful society may be a factor in prompting officials to provide better services for them.