Mumbai: Rs 500 per month from central govt not enough to fight TB

Nov 25, 2018, 16:05 IST | Prutha Bhosle

TB survivor Keyuri Bhanushali appeals to the government via Twitter and letters, for adequate nutritional support to deprived patients

Mumbai: Rs 500 per month from central govt not enough to fight TB
Keyuri Bhanushali

When she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2009, Keyuri Bhanushali had nobody she could turn to for help. Just when she was trying to understand the disease and find ways to cope with the side-effects of medication, she was wrongly treated by her doctor, thus, converting her ailment to multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). The accountant-turned- copywriter recalls, "Dr Zarir F Udwadia, India's leading chest physician, went through my papers and made changes in my medication. Finally, in 2011, I was declared TB free." Earlier this month, the 36-year-old's appeal for an increase in the direct benefit transfer (DBT) allocated to TB notified patients made rounds on Twitter.

In the video, she talks about the loopholes in the Nikshay Poshan Yojana announced by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in April this year. "As per this scheme, R600 crore was allotted to support the nutritional needs of all notified TB patients. Under this, each TB patient in the public sector will receive R500 per month to address his/her nutritional needs. If one is to avail the scheme, they need to provide their bank account details to ensure unhindered financial support. But is the amount enough? Do patients deserve such limited nutrition while fighting a serious disease? There is enough documentation to suggest that poor nutrition is linked to poverty and hunger. It delays recovery and also causes higher mortality among TB-affected people," Keyuri informs.

To help others tide the wave, Keyuri joined forces with Survivors Against TB (SATB), a year ago. "SATB is a community-based movement led by survivors of the disease. Our logic is simple. We are the voice from the community. We talk to TB patients every day and are aware of the challenges they face. Recently, the government increased the DBT amount for People Living with HIV (PLHIV) from R500 to R2,000. We have now urged the government to give similar treatment to TB patients,"
she adds.

Most patients, she adds, are not even aware of the scheme. "How does the government expect to defeat TB if people are unaware of the support being provided to them?" she asks, in a letter to the Prime Minister, health ministry and Jaitley. "While we haven't heard anything from the authorities, we remain hopeful," she adds. Keyuri now plans to continue this engagement with the government at multiple levels. "We will be reaching out to other key stakeholders and continue to represent patients at various forums, to make them aware of these issues. We are not asking for anything unreasonable. People need access to enough food to fight TB. We expect the government to be sensitive and make the policy more patient-centric and realistic," she says.

Rs 600 cr
Amount allotted to support the nutritional needs of all notified TB patients

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