Business swells for Kolkata’s quacks

October 28th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Oct 28 (IANS) They have neither MBBS degrees nor a licence to practise medicine and yet a number of quacks are running their “dispensaries” with aplomb in the heart of the city.For proof of this, one only needs to take a trip to the Jain Kunj area at Hyde Road near Taratolla in south Kolkata. Labourers of different factories and workers of the nearby Khidirpur dock mostly inhabit this area. And this is where the dens of quacks (”hature” in Bengali) have developed.

About 10-12 of them have opened their bamboo-crafted one-room chambers in the area. They have even put up signboards in front of their dispensaries, claiming to be specialised doctors and even have hand-out prescriptions on letterheads.

“These degreeless doctors have been running their business for the past six years. Local people were suspicious about their background and they wrote to us in September for help,” Amitava Bhattacharjee, secretary of the West Bengal unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), told IANS here.

“We immediately wrote to the city police commissioner for taking necessary action. But the problem is that the practice of ‘hature’ doctors has not been banned in our country yet. So, there is little the police can do,” Bhattacharjee added.

Legal or illegal, the people of Jain Kunj and Hyde Road have no option but to depend on these quacks for medical help.

“Whenever a proper MBBS doctor tries to open his chamber in these areas, these degreeless doctors drive them away. And hence we don’t have an option but to depend on them for medical help,” said Bina Das, a resident.

“These degreeless doctors even sell unknown mixtures in small bottles and unidentified jacketless tablets and we have to buy them or else they refuse to examine patients,” said Das.

“Even syringes are not disposed of after a shot. These men use the same syringe to inject various people, and that too without sterilising them. But, then, we are poor. So, we can hardly afford the exhorbitant charges of well-known doctors,” Das added.

On the other hand, the quacks hardly have any guilt about their medical practice. In fact, they look on it as one of the highest levels of social service.

“There are no proper doctors in this area, which basically consists of poor people. So what is the harm in helping these poor people with medical help? You don’t need to be a doctor to prescribe medicines for fever, stomach upset, burns, headaches and cough and cold,” said Ramakant Nishad, one of the quacks operating in the area.

“As for myself, I have passed the Ayurveda medicine examination. In this area I prescribe medicines for minor diseases, push injections and dress wounds. In a way, this is one of the highest levels of social service,” Nishad added.

Another quack, Ashok Kumar Nag, said: “We only treat minor diseases, burns and wounds. If we find a patient’s condition is serious, we immediately sent him to the (nearby) SSKM Hospital for full-fledged treatment.”

“This sort of medical practice is unethical and is running here because of the negligence of the state health department,” said Dilip Ghosh, registrar of the state Medical Council.

However, health department spokesperson Sanchita Bakshi said: “My department has not received any complaint about the quacks. If any complaint comes then only can we look into the matter.”

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