The Death of Infant Joy

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“I have no name;
I am but two days old.”
What shall I call thee?
“I happy am,
Joy is my name.”
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!


In this poem “Infant Joy”, William Blake presents a sweet picture of an innocent and vulnerable infant, whose existence depends upon protection and care by others.

I was reminded of this poem as I read this morning about the failure of our society to give protection to the seven new-born babies who died yesterday, at Old Government Hospital in Vijayawada city, Andhra Pradesh .

‘The parents alleged that the babies died due to faulty incubators, failure of the oxygen system and the negligence of the doctors.

The parents alleged that out of the eleven incubators at the hospital, only four were functioning.

An additional factor is that junior doctors in government-run hospitals are currently boycotting services for increase in stipend.

Another shocking incident took place earlier this year, when five infants were burnt alive and five more critically injured an electric short circuit caused a fire in the Neonatalogy Unit of Government Rajindra Hospital at Patiala.

Within minutes the fire turned ” the entire incubator and phototherapy unit into ashes.”

Last year an infant died of burns when an incubator caught fire in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Shardaben Chimanlal Municipal General Hospital at Ahmedabad.

There are a few more such incidents we could list here. All these took place in government-run hospitals.

I just read this post at ‘india tweets’ which relates a similar shocking incident , highlighting the dismal state of health care in government- run hospitals.

Are there really no funds to ensure that patients receive at least the minimum adequate health-care at government hospitals? Are the funds that are allotted, making their way into bureaucratic and ministerial pockets? Or is the problem merely apathy and lack of will?

Stories about sub-standard facilities and negligence in hospitals are always disturbing, but even more so when they involve the death of infants.

We have no right to boast of our super-speciality private hospitals, our world-class educational institutes, the sprawling campuses of our IT companies and our centrally air-conditioned multi-story malls.

Of what importance are these, when we cannot provide even the very basic health care to our infants?

We are allowing a few to live in luxury while denying existence to others before their lives are even a few days old. We are destroying the future of our country just as soon as it starts taking shape.

edited to add :- ‘Hospital in-charge Superintendent SB Lal confirmed five deaths –– four in the general ward and one in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. Stating that one or two casualties a day are ‘‘common,’’ he said the cause of the Sunday deaths would be probed.’
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28 thoughts on “The Death of Infant Joy”

  1. Manju, there is plenty of money with the government, to make instant decisions on sending aged politicians and MP's abroad for stem cell techniques, and complicated bypasses, and hosting crooks in ICU's. It is routine to see costly machines lying in government hospitals, unused, because having bought it, the government refuses to allot funds to maintain it. Or, sometimes unqualified people are appointed to manage it under pressure from someone. In the meanwhile , the haves corner whatever is there, the have-nots struggle, so what do you say about those who never got a chance to even "be" ?Shame on us.

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  2. I am with U.K ! shame on us. And it is indeed worrisome that its taking kind of a recurring hue to it. And thats completely sickening. I wonder whats the solution. sometimes the air of resignation itself is such a deadly air. i wonder what idea i can place on an incubator.

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  3. Thanks for your thought provoking post, Manju.Is there a local newspaper you can send this into as an editorial to expose this tragedy to the community?I think this is the only way to make change happen, is to expose this..How sad.

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  4. Sad…We are outraged as this news item made it to headlines. I am sure there are many many more instances which just do not get reported.We have as a people become very insensitive and callous and probably cruel and sadistic.

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  5. Ugich Konitari– Yes, all these that you have mentioned are financed by the government.A close relative of mine doing his internship in a government hospital, told me that expensive machinery was often unused, because they would not release funds to hire trained staff to operate it!Kavi– Yes, this sort of horrifying incident happens again and again- that is truly sickening.Can we not learn from our mistakes?

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  6. Nimmy– Yes, we can but hope that things change.These incidents are indicative of a deep rot in society. Unless we change our mentality of selfishness, of 'looking out for number one' at whatever cost to others, things are not going to improve.Beth– I just heard news reports about this on a couple of news channels. And since a few online newspapers have published stories about this today, tomorrow's print editions will probably carry stories, too.Whether there will be any government action out of all this is a different question!

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  7. India's health care system is probably the worst in the world, if we don't count dysfunctional nations. It is such a shame that in 63 years we have not been able to provide this and education to a vast number of Indians.Everyone seems to have become insensitive and selfish. The have don't give a damn.

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  8. I just don't have words to express my sorrow, here, Manju. How can the doctor say that one or two deaths a day is common? Incubator babies dying because of negligence on the part of the authorities is unbelievable. These babies should be given more importance. The poem says everything, Manju. 100% attention should have been given to them. They just don't care about the feelings of the mothers too. SB Lal and his family might have been watching a movie at the time of the incident, who knows. Insensitive people.

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  9. My relative who did her MBBS, here, in Chennai once said that the General hospital here has got the latest, more sophisticated gadgets. Maintenance is nil, she said. Many dedicated doctors are in this hospital and some insensitive doctors too. The management should be good and have influence with the current government..politics is here too.Karunanidhi, TN CM, is providing health insurance to poor people now. Will it help them, only time will tell.

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  10. Look,the country now is for the rich,by the rich and of the rich.It is time that we accepted this reality.There is no shortage of money.How is that the equipment in the VIP ward of AIIMS works for ages and the one in the the ordinary ward doesn't?V P singh's teatment has cost the Govt crores of Rs.He used to travel to London regularly for kidney teatment and stayed at St James Court Hotel.I know that the tariff was around 200pounds.Priyandan Das Mukherjee was hospitalised for about one year at Govt expense and now he is being treated in Germany at Govt expense.THere is no way we can do much because all the laws/acts are made by those who can misuse those.

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  11. Mavin– True, I agree that there must be many more such happenings which do not get reported. Which I think is very frightening…Vinodji– Yes, it does seem that we do have one of the worst health-care systems. And no-one seems to want to even discuss this. Such a contrast with other countries like the US where universal healthcare was one of the main issues in last year's elections.

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  12. Roshni– Since infants who need incubators are usually premature or ill in some way, the casualty rate is probably higher than that of normal new-borns.However, the manner of saying this- I heard in on the television news, too- was certainly callous.Shail– very true- What do other accomplishments matter when we are negligent in the matter of these helpless infants?

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  13. /*Stating that one or two casualties a day are ‘‘common,’’ */this sums up the thing which have been happening for years… NEGLIGENCE… No respect for a life… no concern about the parents of those infants… A same incident like this, a man denied medical attention due to PM's visit which cost his life… I don't think PM's security is above a life.. PMO said a probe has been ordered… only the god knows what happened to that…We can't be superpower with this kind of mindset… we are not rising together… many are left behind… 😦

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  14. Such a sad state of affairs indeed! Just imagine basic amenities not being provided. What is happening to all the grants? As always, human life has no value – and more so if you do not have VIP connections.

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  15. Sandhya– Yes, these news reports about the death of babies who were in incubators, are particularly shocking. I cannot even imagine how devastated the parents must have been!I hope the Tamil Nadu scheme for health insurance for poor people is successful.

    Chowlaji– Yes the disparity between facilities available to the rich and those available to the poor is tremendous!

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  16. Kanagu– The incident of a man losing his life, because he was denied medical attention during the PM's visit, is indeed shocking.Though we can understand the need for security measures, there must be some provision for patients needing urgent care, too.

    Radha– That is the million dollar question- where do all the funds go!

    sm– Thank you!

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  17. Blake is one of my favourite poets, and though he wrote so long ago in the nineteenth century, even then he was aware of the death of innocence.

    As an ironic counterpart to this poem, he also wrote "Infant Sorrow!" where he talks of corruption of the innocent. Maybe he could intuit the callousness and degradation of the modern age.

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  18. This is the tragedy here, we dont have any shortage of funds, they are always there, but either for riches or for the politician's personal whims and fancies..
    look at Mayawati spending crores on statues..
    many hospitals start with getting grants and land at a throw away price with the promise that they will reserve a certaion percentage of facilities for poor for free, but none does it

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  19. Sucharita– Since you mentioned 'Infant Sorrow', I googled it and read it. What a contrast to 'Infant Joy'!

    Renu– I agree, there is no shortage of funds, only shortage of will!

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