• Publish Date: Jan 25 2017 9:19PM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 25 2017 9:19PM

                                                               Photo: Habib Naqash/ KI

Not a single family or person from Kashmir is coming forward to help Burhan and Salman. They are not only abandoned by their parents but by the entire society too 


In the din of busy GB Pant hospital where every child has competing number of attendants, 11 month old Salman and six month old Burhan present a contrasting picture. There is no mother skipping heartbeat at every cry of their or father running in corridors to ensure doctors and medicines reach on time. They are the children of the hospital who have fallen into inhuman category of abandoned babies. 

Ever since their stay at the hospital they have been craving for the affection of mother and a father, but the irony is it is the same people who have abandoned them in a most heartless manner. The children have the best care when it comes to their health but it is the parental care where they are at loss.

Next month Salman will be completing his one year at the hospital perhaps  a longest any healthy child has stayed at the hospital. It was on February 24 when Salman was brought to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the GB Panth Hospital by Police Station Nowhatta in hypothermic condition. “Baby had been found at a shrine of Sheikh Hamza Makhdoom Sahab. The baby was handed over to the Registrar on duty in NICU for further management. Baby was admitted in NICU under MRD No. 18159/ III-A with diagnosis of Encephalocele root of nose with left Porencephalic Cyst,” the hospital records of that time read. 

Salman is suffering from a congenital condition known as “encephalocele on the bridge of nose,” which needs multiple surgeries. Perhaps alarmed at the medical condition of Salman, his parents had simply abandoned the baby at the stairs of famous shrine. 

“We can only guess but we suspect it (medical condition) was the reason that Salman was abandoned by his biological parents. They must have thought that it would be difficult for them to raise such a child so they chose an easier way,” said Dr. S. Muhammad Salim Khan, HOD Community Medicine who has been spearheading the campaign for adoption and welfare of such children. 

Salman has been operated by the doctors to ease growing pressure on his brain and he is responding well to the treatment. According to experts there is high chance that Salman after proper treatment may lead a normal life. In order to do that Salman will have to undergo few more surgeries and proper post-operative care. “Salman has underwent two successful surgeries and his cyst too was removed and as of now all indicators of his health are normal,” said Dr K K Pandita, medical superintendent G B Pant Hospital. “We cannot say for sure but apparently there is a chance that he will grow a normal child.”

Burhans condition is complicated than Salman. The baby boy was found abandoned by the hospital nurse in Ward no 8 last August. The hospital tried hard to locate his parents and made repeated announcements on public address system. According to hospital staff Burhan had two attendants who after hearing about medical condition of Burhan seem to have fled. They left by even taking the record file of Salman which had his address and contact information. 

As the reality dawned on hospital staff, the child was shifted to neonatal intensive care unit in the vicinity of Salman. At present both the children are being taken care in the Nutritional Rehabilitation Center (NRC) of the hospital.

Burhan is diagnosed with Hypoxic Brain Injury, a condition that arises due to lack of oxygen supply to brain and other organs. “At this stage it is extremely difficult to tell how he will grow with this condition. Maybe because of knowing that he will need constant care that his biological parents abandoned him,” said a medico.

Pandita said that the hospital is compelled to look after these children although they don’t have any such mandate. “We take only sick children and they too leave when they are alright. But we cannot leave such abandoned babies on their own they are part and parcel of our society. So till any alternative comes forth we are looking after them,” said Pandita. 

The hospital had written to social welfare department too regarding such children but the department expressed their inability to take the responsibility of these children as according to them they don’t have any such homes where such children can be housed.

At the hospital, the administration has to put in extra manpower for the welfare of such children. “In an ideal situation we have normal staff at the room, but in case of Salman and Burhan we have to reserve extra nurse or medico,” said Pandita.

In case of children with no parents the problems arise occasionally. “Like when there was the need of surgery for Burhan. Everybody agreed on surgery but in such cases where there is risk a parental nod is needed. Here it was ultimately the hospital head who had to approve the surgery with fingers crossed,” said a medico. “And above all a growing child need home like environment which a hospital cannot provide.”

Even during festivals like Eid when almost every child leaves the hospital barring some sick children, Salman and Burhan remain there as they have no home to go.

Salman who is about to crawl and take baby steps has rarely seen the world outside his hospital ward. He is confined to the hospital bed with nurses often changing his diapers, giving him bath, feeding him or providing medication when it is needed. “Our entire staff is looking after them but even that cannot compensate for a home and parents. They need a mother. I feel sad for them. They are being punished for no fault of theirs,” said a staffer. “Be it their clothes or even naming them, everything is done by the hospital staff.”

Over the years the cases of abandoned babies has increased in frequency though the doctors say that it is normal and the number often fluctuates. “Some year we get one or two and in some year like in 2016 we got eight such babies. There is no trend and the number goes up and down,” said Pandita. 

“The positive side is that most of the children get adopted by families and live normal life. It is only with regards to some cases likes Burhan and Salman that we are not getting any families,” he further said while admitting that people often get cold feet when they learn of medical condition of these children. 

Many people and NGOs have been querying about the babies, but till date nobody has adopted them. “Many people come but till date that day has not come when we will bid farewell to the babies towards their homes,” said Pandita. 

Last year a Mumbai based woman adopted a similar girl who had Downs syndrome. The baby was also abandoned by her biological parents in the hospital and the news went viral on media. The woman from Mumbai approached the hospital and after a lengthy legal process and verification she got the custody of the girl.

“We cannot say for sure why such cases occur. There can be multiple reasons from poverty to lack of awareness about the diseases,” said Dr Salim. “In one case a baby was found in a public toilet in Handwara.”

Call it growing apathy of society or something else but Kashmir had never seen such a problem before. Even if any child was abandoned he or should get takers within days and so there was no need to establish a orphanage or home for abandoned babies that are common in South Asian countries.

“We have around 4000-5000 NGOs in the state and yet they cannot take care of a single child this is sad state of affairs. These children are also part of our society and how can people remain indifferent to them,” said Dr Salim.

People are happy to adopt healthy children but when it comes a baby with any disorder, nobody is willing to come forwards. Last year Burhan got lucky when a family adopted him but the happiness proved short lived as the family soon returned the child to Hospital after learning about his medical condition.

At times lack of awareness among people always acts against such children. In 2011 a girl child was abandoned by her biological parents after they found that she had a cleft lip, which is a surgically treated condition. The incident also caused shock in the society and a childless couple adopted the girl. A minor surgery later the girl is living a happy and beautiful life and it was only a loss to her parents. 

At a time when a woman from distant Mumbai could adopt a girl child with Downs Syndrome not a single family or person from Kashmir is coming forward to help them. The children are not only abandoned by their parents but by the entire society too. 

“It is high time that our society undergoes an introspection. These Children are also God’s creation and it is the collective responsibility of the society to help them and provide them a chance to grow in a normal life,” said Dr Salim.