Days after they filmed a video of a family carrying an elderly man to a hospital in a handcart in Madhya Pradesh, three local journalists have been charged with fraud, inciting hatred between class and under the IT Act.
While the FIR says their report is “false and baseless” on several counts, the family in the video say their suffering is real and the story is true.
The case against Kunjbihari Kourav, Anil Sharma and NK Bhatele was registered after an investigation team from the health and revenue department, set up by Sathish Kumar S, Bhind District Collector, said the family did not call ambulance. They said the family took the elderly man, Gyan Prasad Vishwakarma, to a private hospital first, not a government hospital as reported.
But the man’s son Harikrishna and his daughter Pushpa said that they had to use a stroller, push it for 5 kmafter not receiving an ambulance despite calling.
The incident happened from Lahar near Daboh town in Bhind district. Several news outlets, including NDTV, covered the incident. The family belongs to Marpura village in the area.
The daughter also countered the government’s claim that – contrary to the reports of journalists – the family is receiving benefits under various government schemes. “We only received part of PM Awas Yojana. A team from the county government took pictures of my brother’s house,” she said.
Son Harikrishna alleges that government officials “recently came to our hut and made us sign a white paper”.
The authorities have not responded to this particular allegation.
The case against the journalists was registered under the complaint by Dr Rajiv Kourav, Medical Officer at Daboh Community Health Centre.
The problem of people not being able to access ambulances has been reported on a number of occasions in the past.
The government has announced an increase in the number of ambulances. In April, Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, at an authority, announced the number had increased from 1,445 to 2,052. The number of Advanced Life Support Vehicles has also been increased, from 75 to 167. Basic Life Support Ambulances, numbering 531, have been increased to 835.
Access has been an issue.
This was highlighted in March by researchers at the state government’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute for Good Governance and Policy Analysis.
They said the Dial 108 ambulance service – for which the government spends Rs 220 a year – cannot serve 53 cases a day in each district. The number of patients who have to use private ambulances is 10,000 a year.