Tripura Sangsad Protests against ‘Racial’ Statement of DC and CS on Measles Outbreak

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Hill Voice, 8 April 2020, Khagrachari:  Bangladesh Tripura Kalyan Sangsad (Bangladesh Tripura Welfare Council) has launched protestation against the statements pronounced by the Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Civil Surgeon (CS) of Khagrachari Hill District on recent measles outbreak in the hilly regions during video conference with the Prime Minister while discoursing over COVID-19 situation, which was telecast on BTV. The organization alleged that the statements made by the said top most officials of the district level carry communal and racial mentality.

On 7 April 2020, during the video conference held with the Prime Minister, the DC said: “Those who have been infected with measles belong to hill people community. Amidst them, there are some superstitions.” Further he said: “Our MP and district Awami League President belongs to the Tripura community…” On the other hand, the Khagrachhari Civil Surgeon did also speak in the same tune saying: “It is due to superstition, the inhabitants of Tripura dwelling areas are reluctant to get vaccinated.”

In the protest letter dated 7 April 2020, signed by Ananta Kumar Tripura, General Secretary of Tripura Kalyan Sangsad, gratefulness was expressed to the Prime Minister for her motherly sentiment in seeking to know about the condition of people living in remote rural areas.

The protest letter of Tripura Kalyan Sangsad also contains the saying of DC of Khagrachhari district stating: ‘Those who are infected with measles belong to ethnic hill people. There are some superstitions amidst them.’

Having mentioned the entire Tripura society, he mentioned saying: ‘our MP and district Awami League President belongs to the Tripura community’ with which he had hinted to ill intention, which we cannot accede to.’ On the other end, the Civil Surgeon also echoing the same, said: ‘Due to superstition prevalent in Tripura inhabited areas, they do not want vaccination.’

In this regard, it has been stated in the protest letter saying: ‘We are severely aggrieved and resented at heart at such irresponsible comments passed by such two district-highest-ranking responsible officials! We have the ground to develop a conjecture that those comments bear communal and racial mentality.’

The protest letter reveals that instead of making straight answer to the question thrown by the Prime Minister, they had an ill-attempt to impose the responsibility of the epidemic outbreak upon the ethnic communities living in the remote areas. With such reply, the issues of not carrying out proper monitoring by the health workers and not sending the physicians to the affected areas in time, have been tactfully avoided with success.

The Tripura Kalyan Sangsad is in opinion that it has been an ill-attempt on part of the Health Department to hide own failure by way of focusing the issue of incapability of receiving or getting treatment only by several Tripura families while hiding the factual reality. The Protest letter also pointed out that while keeping the real fact secret, the Prime Minister had been bluffed with a child placating tale, against the ill-effort of which the vehement protest has been launched.

It was also mentioned stating: ‘We are aware that the healthcare services do not reach in the comparatively hard-to-reach areas, especially, the health workers do not go to the hard-to-reach areas for vaccination. Whereas, the responsibility for the cause has been put on ‘superstitions!’

In addition, it has also been mentioned in the protest letter stating: ‘the government extended services including the healthcare services, such as, safe drinking water and other basic services are not being ensured in those remote rural areas. What the biggest problem is that not to admit the limitations by the officials, rather to impose the responsibility upon the people who are neglected, deprived of education and development.’

Besides, in the protest letter the demands placed before include: to make the DC and Civil Surgeon withdraw their communal and racial comments and to take departmental legal measure against them; to extend immediate and due compensation to those bereaved families suffered from premature death of their beloved children; to extend resilient assistance to the families having children infected with measles; to ensure medical care to all the remote villages including the already infected ones; and to ensure regular vaccination and nutrition services to all the children living in the remote areas.

It is to be mentioned that recently it has been learnt that more than 350 children were infected and at least 10 died of measles infection in Dighinala and Panchhari Upazilas of Khagrachhari hill district, in Sajek of Rangamati hill district and in Lama, Ruma and Thanchi and Bandarban sadar upazilas of Bandarban hill district. News on outbreak of measles came out in the national dailies. Investigation makes it known that primarily, it is due to lack of healthcare services, excessively lacking of nutrition and socio-economic catastrophe occupy the space of reason that has led to outbreak of measles in those areas. It is for the same reasons, the areas remain prone to measles outbreak every year.

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