Abujhmad forest in Chhattisgarh is considered to be one of the most unknown and disconnected regions in the world. Even after 72 years of Independence, it does not have a revenue map or civil administration. The presence of Maoists is so strong, that even the government has only been able to get a partial control of the region.
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The hilly area is home to indigenous tribes like Gond, Muria, Abuj Maria, and Halbaas and comprises Narayanpur, Bijapur and Dantewada districts.
In terms of basic facilities, there is no public transport except the four buses that run along the 66 kilometre stretch between the district headquarters in Narayanpur and the Orcha gram panchayat. As for connectivity, the interiors of the forest have no roads and phone connections are available only in certain areas.
It is only in the recent past that the state government has increased the number of police officers in the maoist-affected area.
Since Orcha is less dangerous compared to other areas and is also the block headquarters, a market is held every Wednesday, when most people have to walk for hours.
Due to maoist insurgency, the only Jan Aushadhi Kendra that provided medicines at affordable prices in Orcha, was forced to shut down a few months ago. This meant that people would have to travel for 70 kilometres to procure medicines.
Against this backdrop, a 23-year-old girl dared to take charge and give people access to medicines and other daily items like toothpaste and sanitary napkins.
On April 13, Kirta Dorpa of Muria tribe opened a medical store, giving a much-needed relief to families in Orcha and neighbouring villages.
Her courage stemmed from her stint with the UNICEF in 2014. After completing class 12, she had to drop out of school due to financial constraints. It was during the same time when UNICEF volunteers were spreading awareness about malnutrition in the region. Kirta became a translator for the volunteers and travelled extensively to more than 70+ villages.
Speaking exclusively to The Better India, Kirta says:
I came across local issues like malnutrition, poverty, lack of basic healthcare, and nutrition when I visited the villages. It did not make sense to me when these people, who can barely afford a four square meal, travelled for many kilometres only to buy a Rs 20 medicine.
When Kirta expressed the idea of opening a medical store, her brother, Dr Sukhram Dorpa, encouraged her to present a proposal to the village authorities. Sarpanches and locals came on board, encouraging her to open the store.
Her brother, who works in a clinic, financed her project and helped her get in touch with pharmacies in Raipur to supply the medicines.
As per the needs, she updates the stock every month and asks for the prescription for heavy dose medicines. The store is open for 12 hours and gets 15-20 customers daily.
What’s more? Kirta who couldn’t go to college, now earns up to Rs 2,000 every month.
While the locals are happy to get a medical store, my parents are proud of me as I am contributing financially. So far, there has been no backlash and it is safe enough for me to run the store. This has given me the confidence of opening more medical shops in other areas of the region, she says.
Anand Ram Gota, Chief Medical Officer, Narayanpur district, is all praises for the young woman who did what no one else in the region would.
“It takes a lot of courage to even think of running a store in an area where violence could break out any time. Malaria, diarrhea and skin infections are very common in Abujhmad and getting medicines for them on time is crucial. She is an inspiration for us and the villagers,” he tells The Better India.
We, at The Better India, cannot agree more. Kirta’s efforts will save money, time, and even lives!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)