Kirti Sahu is a 23 year old widow from Digepur Village in the Pithora District of Chhattisgarh. She has two very young children and lives with her in-laws in a mud house with nine other people in the family. It was Sept 2012 and the rains had just set in. Kirti was in her first trimester of pregnancy and had gone to answer nature’s call in the fields. She accidentally stepped on a Russell’s viper that bit her just above the toes. She was taken to the Government hospital where anti-venom was administered and the doctors advised aborting the baby as there was a possibility of an adverse effect of the venom and anti-venom on the unborn foetus. But the couple decided to keep the baby. Kirti was later shifted to Basna to a local healer. She was brought to the Anjali Health Centre in Lahrod after about three days of the bite incident.
After spending four days at the Anjali Health Centre, Kirti was shifted to the Raipur Government Hospital and then to Baruda, near Raipur,to live with her mother for further treatment of the necrosis. The high medical expenses and a pregnant wife suffering with severe necrosis was taking a toll on Kirti’s husband, Paras Nath Sahu. In the coming months he was debt riddled and under severe financial crisis. Paras Nath committed suicide on 13th Dec 2012 by consuming insecticide. He was found unconscious in the fields by his family. He was admitted to the hospital and died the same day.
Kirti’s son Tikeshwar was born on 22nd April 2013. Tikeshwar is an active and happy child but blind in one eye. Kirti has no source of income. She receives a monthly pension of Rs200 under the widow’s pension scheme for BPL (Below Poverty Line) card holders in Chhattisgarh. This money is credited into a bank account which is 5kms away from her village.
The purpose of sharing this story is to demonstrate the socio economic scenario in rural India and at what level a venomous snakebite can affect a victim’s life. Snake bite is a curable condition and should be included in all state level health policies with a focus on free treatment to all victims that report to a government hospital. The scarcity of ASV (Anti Snake Venom) has raised the price of a single vial in the retail market to almost Rs950 – Rs1,050 in many places in India. The government should make available ASVs at every single health care unit in rural India. No Indian should die of snakebite in an otherwise progressive country.
Written by Priyanka Kadam