Legislator's death exposes non-availability of medical aid in UP House

Legislator's death exposes non-availability of medical aid in UP House
Kulsum Mustafa

Maut ka ek din muyyan hain,
neend kyu raat bhar nahi aati
(The day of death is predestined, so why does sleep evade us all night)

This is a poet's way of looking at the eventuality that is death. But even when we all know that death is the finality can we just let things go by and not does anything to ensure that life get a better deal, a better chance over death.

Fearless, vocal and a seasoned political leader Dr Sheema Rizvi died like she had lived-with her boots on. The former electronics minister, senior Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader and member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council, Sheema just 50, breathed her last at the Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI) on 19 August 2009 morning. She had suffered brain haemorrhage and collapsed in her seat on 11 August 2009, after delivering a marathon speech of 45 minutes in the House on inflation.

But friends and family are appalled at the delay of over 50 minutes, during which she got absolutely no medical aid at the Vidhan Parishad itself.

Despite her serious condition Sheema was first taken to the nearby civil hospital from where she was referred to SGPGI. Though operated upon immediately for a brain clot by a team of neurosurgeons, so much of vital time had already been wasted Sheema never regained conciousness and was put on the ventilator critical and in coma.

The BJP big wigs in particular, in fact politicians sans party lines, must raise question about the poor medical services available to legislators in the House. If this is done and monitoring and checking of proper medical system is ensured it will help prevent such fatal lapses in future. Sheema's death will not go waste if it helps raise this vital issue.

I knew Sheema since we both auditioned for All India Radio (AIR) together. We often met at the Doordarshan later where she was an announcer and news reader and I programme anchor. Another cementing force between us was my candid interview of her father, late Aziz Rizvi in 'The Times of India.' Tiitled ‘Lone Muslim crusader in saffron brigade” the article written in the eighties presented the humane side of a man hounded by fanatics terming him as a non-Muslim who had joined BJP because he was an opportunist. Sheema told me one day with tears in her eyes "it was a true portrayal by a professional."

The bond that was established that day lasted throughout- though we met very less.
I vividly recall the deep pain in her eyes at the time of her father's death "I do not know how I will survive, he was my anchor in life," she had murmured between sobs. But I knew she would survive, she was made of sterner stuff.

A multi-faceted personality actor, news reader, the Head of the department of Urdu, Lucknow University, she kept herself very busy. Over the years Sheema moved on in life. Joining BJP as an active member in 1998, she had little time left for herself but she remained just as accessible and just as simple for friends and well wishers. That warm smile and hearty laughter were a part of her charm that remained undiminished as years passed by and she donned the mantle of a minister.

We met after a gap of years, but the camaraderie never faded. Whenever me met we picked up the threads of life and without any fuss carried on as if nothing has happened.

I recall how last year during Ramzaan at my son Abbas’s Roza Kushai, I called her at 2 pm on the day of the iftar. Apologizing profusely I told her how her card was lying at home undelivered - the reason being that I had personally wanted to come and invite her but somehow never did. "If you come today I will know that our relationship goes above any formality, if you don't I will not mind and understand." I told her over the phone.

Three and a half hours later she was there, one of the first to arrive. Later her secretary told me that she had dropped two invitations to be at my place.

On that Wednesday afternoon as I stood outside the BJP headquarters as I waited for her body to arrive her smiling face returned to me.

While the news of her death shook me deeply it disturbs me more that initially she did not get prompt medical aid.

Will her party for which she had to face so much flake all her life take up this issue?

Kulsum Mustafa

(The author is a senior journalist and Secretary-General of Media Nest)

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