Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy seems unstoppable. His myth-busting juggernaut is truly on a roll. Just about a week ahead of his proposed ‘jinx-smashing’ visit to Chamarajanagar, he did an Ingalagi at another hamlet, this time at the home of Seetamma, a victim of Handigodu syndrome.
If last September he stayed a night at an AIDS victim’s house at Ingalagi village in Bijapur district, on Thursday night it was the turn of middle-of-nowhere Handigodu in Malwe grama panchayat limits of Sagar taluk, to host the ‘dare-all’ CM. (Seetamma, victim of the mystery disease named after her village, is one among 438 similarly placed persons in the district; there are, officially, 349 victims in Chikamagalur district).
Handigodu, a dreaded disease spawned in the dark underbelly of Malnad region, attacks the human nervous system, leaving the victims crippled.
The medical world is still clue-less on the causes and, thus, on methods of treating it. The disease has been tentatively named after the hamlet from where it was first reported in 1975.
Experts of the Indian Medical Council, the National Institute of Nutrition and Nimhans have undertaken studies here, but are none-the-wiser for their efforts.
A State government-constituted legislative committee in 1997-98 had, in the absence of any cure, recommended that the Government do the next best thing -- rehabilitate the victims.
Handigodu victims are ‘twice removed’ or ‘doubly displaced’ from the mainstream as the syndrome renders them not only unfit for any physical labour but also virtually untouchable. Chalawadi or Channangi, a scheduled caste, is the worst-hit. They have to put up with the stigma attached to the disease, let alone social discrimination for being born into the ‘wrong’ caste.
During his stay here, Mr Kumaraswamy remarked, “Mine is a symbolic gesture but I hope it instills confidence among the victims.”
Commenting on research on the disease having come to a stop in 2005, the CM said: “As there is no dearth of medical experts in the State, we will set up a committee comprising senior officials from departments of Health, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Women and Child Welfare and Social Welfare, to design a comprehensive plan to address the problem”.
‘Funds no problem’
“We’ll explore various alternatives, including Ayurveda and even native medical practices. Funds won’t be a problem. Officials will be asked to stay at Handigodu and work out an action plan for upgrading civic amenities at all places prone to the disease,” he added.
Though effective drugs may take a long time coming, victims hope for immediate relief thanks to the CM’s stay.
For one, he has assured them of a higher monthly allowance of Rs 400 and rations under PDS. Besiides, a regular orthopedician will be appointed for the primary health centre in Malwe GP.
As suggested by the House Committee, a cooperative handloom unit was set up here in 1998.
However, the unit has closed shop for want of a technician. The Chief Minister has now promised to appoint a technician “at the earliest”.
After a marathon Janata Darshan, Mr Kumaraswamy relished traditional Malnad dishes like koli kajjaya and akki kadubu at Seetamma’a house.