Has Punjab’s obsession with cancer robbed its poor of healthcare?

Private waley kehte hain ghar le ja kar sewa karo.” Private hospitals tell us to tend to the patient at home if we cannot pay their fee.

That was Mohan Lal Shonky’s response when asked how he and others in the poor quarter of Nurmahal town in Punjab’s Jalandhar district use medical services.

Shonky, 55 years old and in poor health, is in the ghoda gaadi business. He and his sons rent out their horses and carriage during the wedding season. In a good year, they make about Rs 1.5 lakh between January and March. But this season, given the poor cotton and paddy harvests in Punjab, he expects no more than Rs 1 lakh. This, along with his sons’ earnings as labourers – will have to support them through the year.

Everywhere in Nurmahal’s Kuchapakka colony, you hear the same story, with some variations.