May I narrate an incident about a 19-year old girl (pseudonym Ida) that throws light on the plight of young women in our state. Ida is a child of a single-mother, working as a domestic help taking care of herself, and supporting her mother and step-siblings. Despite the adverse social challenges, she realised the importance of education and re-enrolled herself in school. In search of a little companionship, she started going out with a boy in the city. I do not want to get into the details but long story short, she was coerced to initiate a sexual relationship, which resulted in pregnancy.
Now comes the more horrifying part of the saga. As soon as she missed her period (menstruation), she approached one of the prominent hospitals to avail a medical termination of pregnancy (MTP). She was told that they conduct MTP only for disabled or for rape victims! They asked her to go to a tertiary referral hospital where apparently she was told that “they need to inform the school.” Stigmatized and traumatized, she became fearful of the health system. She felt compelled to return to her maternal home where the family advised her to go ahead with the pregnancy. Please note till date she is unhappy, not prepared to be a mother, and definitely does not see a future with the ‘unemployed’ father of the unborn, who has already started misbehaving through acts of intimate partner violence!
As a public health professional it pains me to see a young teenage girl slipping into the vicious cycle of poverty, thanks to the attitude of health personnel who could have helped her. In spite of all adversities, this girl has been trying her best to escape the cycle of poverty through education. I really do not know if there are any better alternatives? Yet as a community, as a health fraternity, we failed her. Is it not time for our healthcare providers to upgrade our knowledge about amendments to the MTP Act of India? Why do we have to follow the MTP 1971 Act when the Hon’ble. Supreme Court of India has amended the 51-year old regressive law to “…the rights of reproductive autonomy, dignity and privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution gives an unmarried woman the right of choice as to whether or not to bear a child on a similar footing as that of a married woman.”
Where was the choice and autonomy when hospitals refused her the service that was her right by law? Why was a 19-year old treated like a child with no agency? One cannot always expect a 19-year old to be articulate enough to fight for her case when faced with people in positions of power and information asymmetry.
It is so easy to punish a young lady and ‘preach’ on moral and emotional grounds. As a public health professional it breaks my heart that, we as a community, pushed her back into a ‘dungeon’ which she was desperately trying to escape. Did she really deserve to be coerced into motherhood against her choice? Considering that over 10% of maternal deaths in Meghalaya are among teenage pregnancies, I hope she will not become another statistic. If so, will it not be true to say that the treating doctors, who are supposed to save lives, failed her?
Dr Eliza Dutta
What VPP has forgotten to demand
The VPP in its show of strength had demanded only the revisitation of the Reservation Policy, 1972 and had not demanded for prospective implementation of the Roster System. The CM, Conrad Sangma, had, in an issue of The Shillong Times of June7, 2023, stated, “The roster is a continuous process and the continuity starts with 1972. We have been maintaining that for the past many years” What he had been maintaining for the past many years, only he can answer. Of course, it was not the roster. The roster started only from May 10, 2022, the date of issue of the OM pertaining to the matter. Had the VPP demanded for the prospective implementation of the roster, the CM would not have said as such.
Retrospective implementation of the roster is bad for the Khasi-Jaintia Other Minor Tribes and Unreserved categories. Without maintaining a roster for the past 50 years, the MDA-2 is searching for a black cat in a dark room where it is not.
When the Central Government, under the order of the Supreme Court, implemented the post-based roster from July 2, 1997 we were advised to enter in the new roster only the incumbent SCs, STs, OBCs who are still in service; not those who had retired, resigned or deceased. They were placed in the roster against the points reserved for them. The reservation started only from the points after the existing SCs, STs, OBCs were incorporated. Backlog reserved vacancies were consigned to limbo.
Dark humour that is Meghalaya
It began with a chuckle. Then I repeated it loudly to myself. And I couldn’t hold back. I bellowed with laughter. ‘No Scams in Meghalaya, only Scamsters galore’ by Patricia Mukhim (Friday, June 9, 2023) was just too hilarious a heading! I’m still sniggering as I write this response!
What has intrigued me over the years is that many social organisations have been vociferous over political appointments of retired bureaucrats in various departments, yet the practice continues! Will I be incorrect to assume that the civil servant while in office was ”dutiful” to the personal aggrandisement of politician’s? Also party hopping politicians who have been rejected by the electorate find plump appointments as Chairman, Advisor, Special Officer, etc., so readily! Where has meritocracy gone? Where has impeccable track record gone! Where has integrity and trustworthiness gone!
Also I recall reading in The Shillong Times off and on about retired judges being appointed to enquire into various scams and even police atrocities. I always found it ludicrous! And my simple mind comes to a definite conclusion! Mind you I do not believe in the infallibility of judges!
Shillong – 19
Inadequate rainfall — a grave concern
In the face of the global climate crisis, it is always worthwhile for governments to support and recognize individuals who actively engage in environmental conservation. On this Environment Day, the Government took a commendable step by honouring Patricia Mukhim, a senior journalist, for her and her team’s relentless initiative in cleaning the rivers that pass through Shillong town. The Chief Minister also awarded several Dorbar Shnong and NGOs.
Leading the dedicated members of OCU (Operation Clean-Up), Ms. Mukhim and her team have been working sincerely to combat the growing waste and pollution in these vital waterways. Despite the nasty “challenges” they face, their unfaltering determination has become an “inspiration” for many.
It is worth noting that the recurring heaps of garbage that “accumulate” shortly after their clean-up activities are really disheartening. However, the OCU team remains resilient and has continued its mission for the past four years. Their commitment is a testament to their dedication to restoring the ecological balance in the state.
It is no less discouraging that there is still a lack of “strict prohibition orders” from the authorities against the dumping of garbage near these water bodies and drainage though the Government made the promise in the last meeting. The absence of, “concrete action” reveals a lackadaisical attitude on the part of the authorities concerned. This lax approach not only “undermines” the efforts of the concerned citizens but also perpetuates the cycle of pollution and environmental degradation.
It is high time for the Government to take decisive action by implementing strict prohibition orders against “garbage dumping.” Installing CCTVs at various points is a must. This alone goes a long way in winning the hearts of environment-conscious citizens/NGOs.
Finally, I also urge the Government to sincerely find out the underlying factors responsible for the inadequate rainfall in our town and the entire state. What is “blowing away” our share of rain clouds? It is, in fact, a more serious concern than any other.