Gangtok, Oct 12: The Sikkim government’s recent directive, which restricts the distribution of medicines and consumables directly to flood-affected individuals, has sparked controversy, with allegations that it aims to control opposition activities rather than assist the flood victims.
The Department of Health and Family Welfare of Sikkim issued a notice on Monday that outlined two key points. Firstly, it required department doctors, employees, and their medical teams to inform the health department before providing assistance in Chungthang, Lachen, and Lachung in north Sikkim, citing the need for safety measures and better coordination.
The second issue revolved around the distribution of medicines. The notice stated that some individuals, under the guise of organizations or NGOs, had been directly distributing medicines and consumables to individuals. It urged those willing to donate such items to do so through the Health Department’s office.
This notice has drawn criticism, with many regarding it as absurd and an attempt by the government to hinder relief efforts. P.D. Rai, former Sikkim MP and vice president of Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF), accused the state government of trying to politicize and obstruct relief efforts to cover up its own shortcomings in crisis management.
Rai emphasized that relief work should not be politicized during times of crisis and asserted that their party, the SDF, had formed relief cells and was actively providing assistance to affected areas.
However, the health secretary, Dr. A.B. Karki, defended the notice, stating that it was issued to protect citizens. The decision came in response to reports of individuals experiencing adverse reactions after taking medicines distributed by unauthorized sources. According to Dr. Karki, no medicines should be distributed without a proper prescription. He also emphasized the importance of conducting a medical checkup before initiating any medication.
Notably, the notice does not specify the requirement for a prescription.
Rai countered this argument by stating that their party’s health camps had doctors who could provide prescriptions to those in need.
Dr. Karki reassured that proper medical facilities were available in relief camps. These facilities included yoga sessions, mental health support, counseling for trauma victims, daily health screenings, and efforts to prevent water-borne diseases through fogging and immunization teams visiting the camps.
Currently, 21 relief camps have been established in Sikkim, housing nearly 4,000 residents affected by the floods.