Days after they video-reported how a family had to carry an elderly man to the hospital on a handcart in Madhya Pradesh, three local journalists have been booked on charges of cheating, promoting enmity among classes, and under the IT Act.
While the FIR says their report is “false and baseless” on several counts, the family in the video says their suffering was real, and the story is correct.
The case against Kunjbihari Kourav, Anil Sharma and NK Bhatele has been registered after a probe team of the revenue and health departments, formed by Bhind District Collector Sathish Kumar S, said the family hadn’t made any call for an ambulance. It said the family had taken the elderly man, Gyan Prasad Vishwakarma, to a private hospital first, and not to a government hospital as reported.
But the man’s son Harikrishna and daughter Pushpa said they had to use the cart, pushing it for 5 km, after not getting an ambulance despite a phone call.
The incident was from Lahar near Daboh town in Bhind district. Several news outlets, including NDTV, reported the incident. The family belongs to village Marpura in the area.
The daughter also countered the administration’s claim that – as opposed to the journalists’ report — the family is getting benefits under various government schemes. “We got just one installment of the PM Awas Yojana. A team from the district administration took pictures of my brother’s house,” she said.
Son Harikrishna alleged that government officials “recently came to our hut and made us sign a blank paper”.
The administration did not react to this specific allegation.
The case against the journalists has been registered on a complaint by Dr Rajiv Kourav, Medical Officer at Daboh Community Health Centre.
The problem of people unable to access ambulances has been reported in several cases in the recent past.
The government has been announcing an increase in ambulances. In April, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, at a function, announced the number has gone up from 1,445 to 2,052. The number of Advanced Life Support Vehicles was also increased, from 75 to 167. Basic Life Support Ambulances, whose number was 531, was increased to 835.
Access has been an issue.
This was underlined in March by researchers at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Good Governance and Policy Analysis of the state government.
They said the Dial 108 ambulance service — on which government spends Rs 220 crore a year — is unable to serve as many as 53 cases daily in each district. The number of patients who have to then use private ambulances is 10 lakh a year.