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Insurgency hit TB program on revival in Kashmir

Haroon Mirani

Srinagar, April 27, 2007 (Kashmir Newz Desk) :

Tuberculosis
The Tuberculosis programme in Indian administered Kashmir that was badly hit during the insurgency is now slowly reviving, thanks to some dedicated lot of professionals.

Tuberculosis used to be one of the most lethal and contagious diseases in the region. Owing to its disastrous consequences, the Tuberculosis Association of Jammu and Kashmir (TBAJK) was established in the state as an offshoot of TB association of India way back in 1958.

"It was not only that people used to die due to this disease, rather it was its social bearing, that added to its after effects" said Abdul Majid Mughloo, administrative officer at the TBAJK.

Like most parts in India TB in Kashmir has a social stigma attached to it which makes the situation worse particularly in the rural areas.

"People have a perception that whosoever acquires this disease is sort of handicapped for whole life, he/she is seen as an outcast in society and their marriage becomes a remote possibility" said Mughloo.

After two years of stabilization the association started its full fledged work with the primary thrust on rehabilitation of TB patients particularly girls. Given the only institute of its kind during that time it got huge response from the people. With the result the TBAJK soon spearheaded one of the most successful programmes in the TB care in the state.

What the association does is to train the girls, who are either cured or under TB treatment, in the vocational centers run by TBAJK. They are trained in embroidery, cutting and tailoring, which helps them become independent. These girls also get monthly stipend during their stay at the vocational centers, besides some other incentives.

"We make it sure that if some of the girls do not find match due to the stigma attached to the TB, they will not remain dependent on their families" says Mughloo.

"In the initial stage we used to get hundreds of girls for the training, such was the response that we were in short of the facilities," says Mughloo. Upto 1989 the TBAJK became a full fledged non voluntary organization having its reach in many parts of the region. Besides the two vocational centres at capital cities in Srinagar and Jammu, TBAJK also opened and successfully operated the rural centres at Kupwara, Sopore, Anantnag, Kathua and Udhampur district headquarters. It was due to the reason that majority of poor TB patients used to come from these places and they were unable to travel to city offices of TBAJK.

On an average the TBAJK vocational centres used to get more than 30 girls and the intake capacity would have been increased if the funds were available and this remained the situation till 1989.

With the outbreak of insurgency in 1989, Tuberculosis work was also hit hard, as was the case with other sectors.

"Those were the most difficult days for us, from full fledged institute on one day, we were suddenly transformed into a near defunct one on the second day" recalls Riyaza Akhter, instructor at the TBAJK vocational centre in Srinagar for the last 20 years.

Further adding "even with bullets flying over our heads and bombs exploding near us our feet, we didn't stop our work. Our centre worked albeit with decreasing roll".

The deteriorating situation in the early nineties forced the girls to opt out of the centres and only one girl remained on the roll. The association had to shut down its rural centres at five district headquarters. During these days the movement of the association workers was restricted which led to the breakdown of everything.

"With violent incidents everywhere, we couldn't even think to visit our rural centres" remembers Mughloo.

The associated building of TBAJK at Dalgate that also housed the clinic of Dr. Tahir Mirza, a famous physician and secretary of TBAJK, along with its infrastructure worth millions of rupees was gutted in a fire incident during these destructive days.

Now as the situation has largely improved, the association too has been trying to get the voluntary centers and associated work back on track. The response they are getting is also good from all sides.

While showing the positive sides of revival, Mughloo says that our roll has also increased from one to nine and we hope to attract more such girls in the near future. Furthermore eight girls are also on roll in Jammu centre.

They have also been successful in creating awareness among the people regarding the myths about TB.

"Nowadays we feel happy that lot of our girls are finding good matches" smiles Mughloo. It was in recognition of their work that TBAJK was awarded the best association for its overall conduct for the year 2005 by TB association of India. Shugufta, who have joined the vocational centre of TBAJK last year feels that coming to the centre has been the best thing to her.

"I think if I would have been at home it would have become more depressing situation for me, but here I feel confident and above all a normal person," says Shugufta.

The association also hopes to revive the rural vocational centres, but face limitations due to their shoe string budget of 8-10 lac rupees.

Besides imparting skills to the girls, the centre also provides financial help to poor and needy patients. Its proximity to the Chest and Disease hospital in Srinagar has helped it greatly in reaching to the TB patients.

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