Attacks on media persons by evil powers of Society in Odisha are still on. In another such incident journalists and media were attacked on 19th June 2012 by a Paediatric Specialist Dr Prafulla Patra owning a private clinic “The Child”.
As per an FIR filed by the media persons the Doctor and his family man handled and did literally beat the media person in his private Clinic. When he was asked about a specific allegation of harassing a dalit family for giving the bill for the amount it charged against few days treatment of a seven month old baby. The reporters and media persons attacked were Byomakesh Kara of a local TV news channel Kamyab TV, Rajesh Saraf of Naxatra TV, Badriprasad Sahu of Seashore TV, Sanjib Mahapatra, Editor of Local Odia weekly ‘Kosal Times’.
Background of the case
Reports said that one Kishore Chandra Meher of village Kandlei in Balangir district had admitted his seven-month old daughter on April 27 in Child Care Nursing Home run by Dr. Patra. However, as the condition of the girl child did not improve even after 14-days of treatment and the parents of the baby saw their child was not given due attention, the parents wanted to shift the girl child to VSS Medical College Hospital in Burla and asked Dr Patra to discharge the baby. Dr. Patra while referring the seek baby to VSS Medical at Burla charged Rs. 23,000 to Kishore Chandra Meher without giving any instant Bill but asking the parents to come later and take the bill. In the meantime, the mother of the baby went under severe mental stress seeing her daughter kept in a very unhealthy space in the clinic and given no proper medical attention.
The plight of the innocent family didn’t end here but it was just the beginning. Once the daughter got well with treatment at VSS Medical College Hospital, Kishore again turned up to ‘The Child’ to collect the bill. Instead of 23000 rupees, as Kishore paid to the Clinic authorities while shifting his daughter, a bill for 16000 rupees was only given. When Kishore objected to this, that bill was also torn by Dr Patro as a straight denial to give any bill from the Clinic.
Finding no other way, Kishore then approached the Reporters and explained the kind of harassment he had been facing from the Doctor.
Reason of attack
Realising that a proper bill would really help the poor man to seek some aid from the government as he was also a dalit, the reporters with their crew visited the private hospital and asked the doctor about the case. As the doctor denied to have admitted any such patient in his clinic, Kishore was presented by the reporters and it made the Doctor angry. When the media persons also raised the issue of negligence during treatment of the baby and insisted that a bill for the exact amount be given to Kishore, the Doctor and his wife were almost enraged and started physically assaulting the scribes as seen in the video (see at the top of the report).
This is the second assault on media persons by Dr Patra. Earlier, Dr Patra misbehaved another journalist Ashok Pradhan working with the Times of India newspaper.
Police in action
An FIR has been submitted by the assaulted reporters after the incident. But there has been no arrest so far. When representatives of District Journalists’ forums wanted to know the status of the case, Police just washed its hands saying that the Doctor and his wife are absconding and are still untraceable. The clinic is locked since the next day.
Members of civil society organisations allege that police is just avoiding to take strong action by giving such a plea because the Doctor can be easily traced as all his records would be with the government. It’s to be noted that Dr Patra was a Government Doctor in Bargarh District and was transferred to Kalahandi district in 2009. Even though Patra was relieved from Bargarh, he didn’t join in kalahandi but running the nursing home. It’s not known whether the Doctor is still on leave or continue to be an absentee without intimation.
Series of events in the particular case raise more questions apart from the simple allegations of assault. It is evident from the case that the privately run medical grossly lacks financial transparency. Giving a bill for a lesser amount than it collected indicates that the nursing home is into the business of tax hoarding which is an offence on the face of Indian laws.
So, instead of dealing with it just as a case of assault, Police must also investigate into the financial irregularities of the clinic run by Dr Patra.
Not a lone case
This is not the lone case of physical assault on journalist in Odisha. Cases of Journalists being attacked by evil forces in the state are increasing day by day. Even after repeated appeals by media persons and media rights organisations, the state government is yet to take the safety issues of journalists seriously. The callousness from the government drives Odisha to become a hell for journalists and a place of difficulties for the profession of journalism.