Akeel Rashid

 When institutional violence manifests in individual felony! 

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First things first – What happened, with a pregnant lady and her child, at Lalla Ded  (LD) maternity hospital in Srinagar was the extreme manifestation of institutional or structural violence prevalent in different forms in our part of the world. The response of common people in general and public figures in particular catered to emotional aspect, that has something to do with the victim, and psychological aspect, which pertains to the perpetrator, of the incident, while as they failed to highlight the structure of the incident.

Here’s the meat of the matter: Let me start from the basics. In a place like Kashmir which is experiencing an active political conflict, the people ought to be more concerned about political injustices and its handling while the social injustices typically receive less attention. The aforementioned fact is suggestive of the obvious outcome of the LD incident that is “it will be forgotten” and to substantiate my claim, let me bring back to memory of readers the tragic incidents of infant abandonment, also a social injustice, which remains unaddressed till date.

The serious allegations levelled at the doctor who, according to the family members of the pregnant lady denied them admission at LD maternity hospital, is being held responsible for the death of an infant. But, to me this is not just a case of individual misconduct rather an issue of maladministration and social negligence. How and why? Let me explain.

In absence of accountability, the institutions- a hospital in this case- fails to uphold ethics and treat people according to the standard operating procedure. The accountability, thereof the upholding of ethics and proper procedures, at a hospital can be ensured only by constituting a grievance cell at the said institution and its accessibility should not be complicated like any other grievance cell.

More to the point, the second reason for institutional unaccountability is the lack of awareness among the people pertaining to their own rights. If the administration would have ever taken some serious steps to create awareness among common people about how to fight the violence perpetrated by the institutions, the unfortunate incident at the LD hospital could have been possibly prevented.

The social negligence is just another factor which contributed to the LD incident. If the pregnant lady was denied admission and then compelled to leave the hospital premises along with her family members, the whole incident would have probably taken place in the public gaze, and how this individual misconduct and institutional violence got manifested into a tragedy is suggestive of public passivity. Taking a stand against an issue on social media has become fashionable in Kashmir but when it comes to taking initiatives at the ground level, our society fails to present an example.

If the people at the ‘delivering end’ are sincere with their outrage regarding the LD incident, they should bat for bringing necessary reforms, meant for those who are at the receiving end, in the problem-plagued health sector. While there can be countless suggestions for bettering the overall scenario of health sector, to begin with, I would recommend that the prescription letter obtained at the hospital should be inscribed with the information as to how the patients and their attendants can register their grievances. Moreover, two or more employees should be assigned the duty of registering grievances at the reception desk of every hospital and those grievances must also further flow to the corridors of decision makers.

It is also imperative for the common people that whenever they happen to witness an act of institutional injustice they should take a stand against the perpetrators and side with the marginalized, in a peaceful manner though. It is also imperative that in order to get rid of visible as well as tacit lacunae’s that plague nearly all sectors here, people must come forward and register their suggestions as to how some systematic changes can be introduced to ensure better deliverance of public service.

Ps. Social media outrage has served no purpose, it will never serve one.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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