A controversy has erupted in Assam as a tribal woman working for a tea garden was allegedly raped while walking down to her home as the hospital did not arrange a vehicle for her to return home after discharge from the hospital.
According to Sudhakar Singh, the Superintendent of Police, Charaideo Assam, the incident took place on May 27, when a tribal woman along with her daughter was discharged from the Sapekathi Model Hospital after they tested negative.
After they were discharged at around 2 pm, they decided to walk around 30 km to their home from the hospital. It was already dark by the time they reached Borhat Tea Estate when two persons chased them. As the young daughter somehow escaped, the men caught hold of the mother. The girl went to the nearby village and alerted the Village Defence Party who came in search of the lady and police also joined them. She was found gagged, molested and raped in the nearby area.
“The FIR was lodged by the victim’s family on May 29 and subsequent actions were initiated. Based on their information, we have arrested two persons and the victim has identified them. At this moment, we cannot reveal more as interrogations are on,” said Sudhakar Singh.
The seventeen-year-old daughter narrated the shocking incident. “The persons caught hold of my mother and dragged her into the gardens. I started running and found the VDP people playing carom. They came with me in search of my mother. We found her after a couple of hours but the people fled when they saw the torch lights approaching them,” says the daughter of the victim.
‘Was terribly weak due to Covid and they overpowered me easily’
The mother of three children, the 54-year-old survivor said: “I was terribly weak due to Covid and they overpowered me easily. I requested them to spare me alive and do whatever they were up to. I had no other options, they threatened to kill me if I narrated the incident to anyone or reveal their identity. I caught my ears and pleaded with them for my life, I needed to live to look after my three children. By then people came, they left me and escaped into the darkness”.
The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee condemning the shocking incident of the rape of a woman from the tea garden community held the hospital authorities responsible for not providing an ambulance to drop the woman and her daughter who were Covid patients. They were left to fend for themselves when the lockdown was in place. Isn’t it the responsibility of the hospital and local authorities to see to it that the woman and her daughter reached their home safely?
When the Government of India had sanctioned Rs 15,000 crore as Emergency Fund for Corona and Rs 35,000 crore for vaccines, when people of India are going all out to donate to PM Cares Fund and when people of Assam have also donated generously to CM Relief Fund for Corona why are hospitals running without ambulances? A few days back BJP MLA of Khumtai Sri Mrinal Saikia had also tweeted that Golaghat Civil Hospital refused to take two Covid patients to the hospital and he had to arrange an ambulance himself. So this is the actual ground situation of health infrastructure and Covid management in Assam, the Congress said in a statement.
“The Honorable CM had said immediately upon taking office that safety of women in Assam would be his top priority. Is this his example of the safety of women? We are all aware and it is a matter of utter shame that crime against women in Assam has been highest in the country for the last three consecutive years. The incidents of crime against women are growing unabated. If the government remains silent and does not take strong concrete steps, the safety of our women and girls are at great risk,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Assam Health Minister Keshab Mahanta said: “From now onwards the Deputy Commissioner of respective districts shall hire vehicles besides available resources of an ambulance and take the onus of carrying positive people to the respective Covid care centres, hospitals or if need to the medical colleges. Likewise discharged negative people shall also be taken to their respective home.”
Assam’s tea gardens worst-affected in second wave
Assam has 800 tea gardens, of which 370 of them are Covid affected and only 271 have Covid care centres. Till May 28, 6,146 tea garden workers have tested positive in the second wave and 43 have lost their lives to the deadly virus. There have been over 300 per cent spike in cases among tea garden workers, deaths have also gone up 3 fold. And 57 new Covid care centres have come up in these days. However, 29 affected tea gardens still don’t have Covid care centre inside the estates.
Assam has over 6 lakhs tea estate workers, till now about 44,000 have received the first dose of the Covid vaccine and only over 3,000 have got the second dose. And 43 per cent of patients have recovered, but there are still 3,500 active cases.
The Guwahati High Court steps in
Meanwhile, the Guwahati High Court based on a PIL has sought a written reply from the State on the Mobile Medical Units (MMU) and their use in the tea gardens.