In Focus

Stark absence of medical facilities

The Gram Panchayat charges everyone a fee to enter the island: A seemingly-innocuous sum of Rs 5 per person that translates into a whopping INR 10 million per year but offers a small box of Band-Aids, a half-empty bottle of Dettol and Paracetamol by way of medical aid.

The Gram Panchayat does nothing by way of providing medical aid to tourists
There was Khushboo, a local ‘nurse’ who provided basic first-aid and “no treatment in case of bites,” to the 1,200 locals and the twenty lakh tourists - at Elephanta Island who have poor little by way of medical protection in case of an emergency.

Once you manage to buy a ticket to enter the island and reach the base, you are left to the mercy of the elements and the apathy of the island’s gram panchayat which offers nothing by way of treatment or crisis management here. If you’ve had a fall, suffered a more serious injury like say a bite or gash, or developed a violent allergy, you’ll need to rush back to Mumbai for treatment.

“With the absence of power on the island there was no way to keep medicines refrigerated all the time,” recalls Khushboo, Elephanta Island’s only nurse. All of Elephanta Island prayed for Khushboo to marry an islander and stay back on Elephanta just so that they are not deprived of medical aid, however basic.

As fate would have it, Khushboo got married recently but to a man who lived in Uran. Ironically, Khushboo’s husband moved to Elephanta Island and began to work at her ‘shop’ on the steps leading to the caves while she moved to Uran where she procured a well-paying job at CIDCO. “We live together during weekdays in Uran and I travel to Elephanta during the weekends to handle the shop,” says her husband.

This report has been prepared for DraftCraft International’s Flagship Initiative, The Elephanta Island Project to research, analyse and determine the rights and liabilities of Islanders, local and foreign tourists vis-a-vis the responsibility of the State towards all stakeholders and natural resources while upholding the law of the land and ensuring the protection of environment that tops the list of priorities. The initiative examines laws and policies regarding islands, sea transport, privacy, women’s rights, health, protection of the environment and rights and liabilities of tourists guaranteed to all by the State in context of the Right To Equality, Freedoms, The Right to Life and Global Conventions to which India is a signatory.