Is it a Sin to be Sick?

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Hemashri tells us about the red-tapism and babuism in government departments to get medical bills reimbursed, in the weekly column. A Different Truths exclusive.

Watching the agony of the sick one, often I wonder what actually causes sickness. Is it karmic deficit of previous births that one has to repay by enduring disease? Is it God’s anger or is it imbalances in the body as described by the legendary Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen. Some diseases are infections caused by pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The non-infectious diseases are likely to be caused by a confluence of factors like environment, lifestyle, and genetics. I have seen some health-conscious people suffering from a myriad of sickness whereas some carefree souls lead perfectly healthy lives. Witnessing many such self-contradictory phenomena, I have realised that there is a great deal of unpredictability associated with sickness. Such introspection happens when we endure disease or see the suffering of a dear one. I have seen my mother suffering for the last one-and-half decade. She was a very health conscious person.

How do we treat a person suffering from sickness? First of all, the ailment is widely misused as an excuse to evade responsibility that we instantly distrust a person, who complains about a disease. As a child, I remember one of the subordinates working under my father, who used to continuously complaint and narrate about his gastric problem. It was the peak of an agitation with an adverse law and order situation. My father perhaps did not pay much heed to his excuse. One day, the man collapsed within half an hour after lunch and died. He had complained of severe stomach ache. His body was brought to our office-cum-residence campus for the last respects. I saw my father breaking down that day. He might be feeling very repentant. Wish he could arrange for a proper treatment of that ailing man.

In a government department, my job was to assist the head of the department to dispose of his files, as his Officer on Special Duty (OSD). In fact, OSD is a versatile post, sometimes even a very senior or retired person might be an OSD or a person outside the system might also be appointed as OSD. I was instructed to monitor important matters. I found a file related to medical reimbursement claim of a widow, Smti Monika Acharjee making the rounds. Her husband, Late Bimal Acharjee, was admitted in AIIMS, where he died after an operation. Smti Acharjee had submitted all documents in original, which were forwarded to the respective Directorate for necessary follow-up. File noting showed that the original documents were dislocated in the Directorate’s Office. So she was again asked to submit the original documents. The District Officer, the Inspector of Schools wrote to the government that the applicant had already submitted the original documents to the government hence photocopies of her documents are countersigned by the undersigned, which may be treated as genuine. Who says that government does not have sensitive people? The Finance Officer of our Department wrote that the documents should be sent to AIIMS to verify if the operation was actually done there. The person concerned had died five years back, where every day many operations were performed. I showed it to my boss and he was kind enough to forward it to the Finance Department for necessary approval. After a few weeks, the file came up with queries. The officer from the Finance had asked for ‘dead body handover certificate’. In presence of the Finance Officer of our department, I argued that the widow Smti Acharjee had submitted tickets of Indian Airlines, where it was written, “Mortal remains of deceased Late B Acharjee” was carried in that flight.  I placed my point that the ticket was a clear proof that Smti Acharjee brought dead body of her husband. Hence under such circumstance asking for such certificate was unjustified. My boss accepted this. That day when we came out of the chamber, the concerned dealing assistant told, “Madam, you are worrying about one case, I have thirteen hundred similar pending claims.” His audacity was shocking. Talking to the concerned officials dealing with matters of medical reimbursement, I came to know that in the past, several cases of fraudulent withdrawal took place hence rules were very stringent. I was wondering for a few unscrupulous elements everyone had to be treated so harshly. Having accumulated some experiences of accompanying my sick mother to hospitals, I was perhaps sensitised about the infirm.

After a few months, it was my turn to do the rounds for medical reimbursement. A complicated surgery was performed on my mother after a Guwahati-based surgeon had failed. This required an immediate corrective surgery and local doctors refused to perform it due to the high element of risk. So we had to rush her to Apollo Chennai. My sister, a doctor, pursued clearance of our mother’s medical bills. My husband, who was also an officer, pursued the file to obtain the necessary medical certificate from the respective directorates. After our return from Chennai, I pursued the file of medical reimbursement, as our father was a government employee. It required one-and-a-half-year of continuous persuasion and some drama to finally get the reimbursed amount. It was a teamwork of three persons, which needed 18 months. A major sickness devastates a family. Medical expenditure in our country is considered very reasonable in comparison to many other countries. Still, for the middle-class, it is a heavy burden. Why should it be such a complicated process? Maybe the policies are too sick for things to change for the better.

Experience has made the heart grow softer. Wish I could do away with all forms of sickness – the world would have been poorer by some professions but richer in happiness. After this experience, I feel that various ailments might be a manifestation of God’s wrath. We cannot deny the theory of karmic deficit too. The disease-causing pathogens are floating in the air or water but not everyone gets infected. Only a few unfortunate souls get infected and no one knows when and who would fall sick.

Is it really a sin to be sick?

©Hemashri Hazarika

Photo from the Internet

#Governance #experience #Babuism #KarmicDeficit #DepartmentFinance #GovernanceGallimaufry #DifferentTruths

Hemashri Hazarika is an Officer of the Assam Civil Service since 1997. Her research on Assam Civil Service brought reforms in 2015. A first-class Postgraduate in Economics from Gauhati University, she was awarded JRF/NET by UGC in 1997. Her experience as a bureaucrat has sensitised her to human sufferings. A solutionist by passion, she takes an active interest in issues related to Governance, Development, Women, Children, etc. Reading, Writing, Speaking and Painting are her hobbies.