Meeting with Dr. Prema Menon, Pediatrician
Dr. Prema Menon, Pediatrician Consultant, Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Profile: M.B.B.S Osmania Medical College, Hyderabad
PG from Bombay. Worked in major cities, Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata as Pediatrician.
By: Danteshwari Bhaskar
Q.1. What child problems are we facing today?
Ans. If you ask me about Andhra Pradesh, we do have a lot of problems facing us today, health as well as social problems. When we talk about health, I mean the diseases and infections that children are normally affected by. You find that they have a lot of respiratory diseases, malnutrition, seasonal infections, which we normally term under viral infections. Many organizations are helping us with childcare not only in Asia, but all over India as well. We have foreign funds available to us for the treatment of children. Children are not recognized by society. Parents disown them, as they are afraid of being ostracized due to social stigma. Who looks after them? Who wants an orphan or an ugly child?
We do have organizations in Hyderabad, which are looking after children. There are number of organizations, which are doing a lot of good work, not only in Hyderabad but all over India. In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, in the North, there are organizations that are looking after HIV affected children. I wouldn’t say that they are totally neglected. But the parents of these children are the ones who should be tackled or treated…be given more attention. After all they are just like us. Even though, we do not have enough money or funding or treatments of such cases, there are plenty of medicines going around all over. Every person who is positive needs medical treatment. It is very expensive I do agree, but more organizations need to come together to help the affected children.
Q.2 Your comments on child abuse? How it affects children?
Ans. Even a new born girl is in danger of being abused. When I tell this to my colleagues, they do not believe. A newborn girl can attract the attention of a man. Even babies have been abused – abused and thrown away. This has happened. This is a fact. How? Being a female is one thing, being born a girl or female, but to grow up to be a woman is not easy at all. From childhood onwards, the girl is in danger of being abused or manhandled. It could be a relative in the house, a help or a stranger. Innocently, she is attracted to other people, who encourage them. They either rape them, or kill them or keep them under their control. The child out of sheer fear will not tell anyone. This has happened, is happening and will continue to happen. And what happens she may be raped and no one in the house knows about it. The child is too afraid to tell her parents- How does it come out? When the child is older and maybe she talks to her friends or her friends may come and tell her parents or the girl herself may go to the police and action is taken. What is the action taken? Nothing. The man is free even after abusing the child. They are people who rape innocent girls and continue to be free. Who is to blame?. the man, the man’s nature. Action has to be taken by someone, either by the society or the government, the police or the judiciary.
Everyone has to take action. This is a very difficult situation. Even young boys face these problems. Sometimes due to poverty young boys have to work. They take to drugs, to smoking…somebody has to help. It starts from the top.
Q.3 Child labor is of major concern world wide. How do you feel about it?
Ans. Child labor in India is a big problem too. In many factories and industrial centers, children are made to work from morning to night, especially so in the South where firecrackers are made. In Sivakasi factory, where firecrackers are made for festivals, such as we have in India, like Diwali, children are made to work. Children are taken to the center at 4.30 a.m in the morning, where firecrackers are made. They hardly get any rest, no proper food. They are told that they are getting meals, but the meals have no nourishment.
In Kashmir, children also make the embroidery and handicrafts that we buy. Lot of strain is there. They are mostly under the age of 14. In the case of domestic help, who are mostly from the rural areas, children are brought from the rural areas to the city on a contract basis. I will not mention the name of the pediatrician. He employed a maid, a Lambadi girl, 11 and half years old as a help who was made to do all the chores. She was a very pretty girl, who worked from 5.40 a.m. in the morning till 10.30 p.m. Her parents would come once in month to collect the salary- a meager amount of Rs.4,000 for the entire year. She had no access to her parents. This has happened in my area. Once the girl grows up, she will be married off by her parents and will probably lead another life in hell.
Q.4 Modern lifestyles, how are they affecting children?
Ans: Modern lifestyles… we come to the elite section of the s