Fake doctors are conning villagers in BankePeople with basic medical training are running clinics in rural areas and putting people’s lives in danger.
Not long after they returned home from an evening walk, Gayaraj Dhobi and Malikraj Dhobi, aged 26 and 28, suffered a persistent stomach ache. Malikraj, who by relation is Gayaraj’s brother-in-law, was at the latter’s house, in Narainapur, for a family ritual. Once the ceremony was over, the two had gone out for some fresh air.
When the two complained of the ache, Kushma Dhobi, Gayaraj’s wife, called Rajesh Singh, whom everyone in the village knew as a doctor. Singh provided a variety of medicines to the patients, but it didn’t work, Kushma recalls. There were given saline and often injections. Gayaraj passed away in the wee hours of Monday morning. Malikraj was scurried to Nepalgunj but died on the way.
Narainapur, a rural municipality in Banke, is a sprawling settlement across the Rapti River, 35 km south-east from Nepalgunj. The settlement is surrounded by Chure hills on one side and the river on the other. It is a quiet, deserted village on the margins that hardly sees any outsiders. The locals have been keeping up with the barebones, waiting for hospitals, road networks, school, electricity. The village health post perennially runs out of resources. For decades, villagers like Kushma have been resorting for treatment to people like Singh should the body face any complication.
Ramsaroj, Gayaraj’s father, blames Singh for his son and son-in-law’s death. Ramsaroj believes Singh is a quack, masquerading as a doctor while he has little medical expertise. “Singh ran away killing my son,” he says. “He gave way too many medicines, none of which worked.”
Chitra Bahadur KC, a local, said the villagers have no option than see people like Singh. “The health post has nothing besides paracetamol tabs,” KC said. “We are compelled to take help from those like Singh. Something is better than nothing.”
Ram Ferhan Godiya, who had seen Singh for a stomach ailment two years ago, said Singh’s medication did nothing for him. “He promised all would be okay,” said Godiya. “But it didn’t. I had to go to Nepalgunj and discover that I had a wound inside my stomach. It turned out that Singh had given me medicines without knowing what the disease was.”
After the recent incident, Singh is on the run. So is another “doctor” Mahesh Gupta who has a clinic in the same village.
The area police are currently searching for both, according to Man Bahadur BC, in-charge of the Bhagwanpur-based area police office. “We are trying to arrest all the quacks masquerading as doctors,” BC said. “No medical mafia is allowed in this area.”
The rural municipality’s deputy chair, Jayanti Devi Shrivastav, however, said she is not aware of such quacks—who the locals call “jhole doctors”. “I don’t know about such medical clinics set up by medical professionals of little expertise,” said Shirvastav.
Narainapur is a local unit of six wards and 45,000 people. There are six health posts and 35 medical clinics operating illicitly. Many cases of the deaths caused by the quacks don’t generate much discussion.
The quacks, locals say, go to India after grade 10, where they receive training for a year or two in little-known clinics and return to the village. Then they set up clinics and start treating the villagers. They are popular because the health posts lack resources. The rural municipality’s health coordinator, Moin Khan, however, said the health posts do not ask for medicine supply.
“In some cases, we have found those doctors providing banned medicines,” said Binay Dixit, a local. “But people go to them because there’s no option for immediate treatment.”
After news about the two youth’s death spread, a joint team from the medicine management department and district administration office reached Narainapur on Wednesday. The team raided three clinics, according to Ninu Shrestha, chief of the department’s Nepalgunj branch. The team padlocked and confiscated medicines from the clinic owned by Singh.
“We have done a public inquiry deed at the clinics,” Shrestha said. “We will punish them if found guilty.”
Deputy Chief District Officer Krishna Kanta Upadhyay said they have detected clinics operating illegally in the area and that the legal process will move forward after the visiting team files a report of their findings.