Acid attack survivor Jeetu Sharma, who was seen in Bollywood star Deepika Padukone’s movie "Chhappak" earlier this year, has been struggling to get her father treated for cancer amid India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown. The 23-year-old took from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, took to Twitter and Facebook to bring the situation to the attention of lawmakers.
In a series of posts written in Hindi, Sharma highlighted how the restrictions on movement had left some people suffering other critical diseases scrambling for medical care and treatment.
Her father, Somdutt Sharma, 55, a head constable with Uttar Pradesh Police, is currently posted to Mainpuri district in the western part of the state. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in January and was receiving treatment at a private hospital in Noida.
According to a report on ndtv.com, she said: "His treatment was happening at Jaypee Hospital in Noida. But I have not been able to take him for treatment because of the lockdown. His condition became very bad in the past few days; he can't swallow anything. I called the district administration (helpline number 112) and they said to go to the police station.”
According to the report, she then went to a local police station in Aligarh, where she was told arrange for a taxi and take her father to Delhi for treatment.
Apparently, the Noida hospital had insisted on negative COVID-19 tests before continuing any treatment for her father.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Ms Sharma claimed she initially took her father to Aligarh's Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (which is affiliated to the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University) but was turned away.
"I was told new cancer patients were not being admitted. I tried to speak to a senior doctor but nobody responded. By that time the ambulance that dropped us to the hospital had left and the helpline said I needed referral papers for another one to come. I had to take my father back home in a rickshaw in this heat," she posted on Twitter and Facebook.
According to news reports, Sharma’s family is also facing financial problems. Her father has not received his salary for the last four months. She said: “My father served the police for 30 years but nobody in the administration has helped him. We have not been able to send his medical papers to the department in Mainpuri, so he has not received any salary either in these few months.”
Her Twitter plea was shared by many who tagged state authorities to take quick action. The state’s police and lawmakers finally responded on Thursday.
Chandra Bhushan Singh, the District Magistrate of UP's Aligarh, posted: "The daughter of a cancer patient has been informed to submit an application before Aligarh city magistrate. She will be given permission to take her father to another city for treatment.”
The UP government has also pointed out there is an e-pass system for those forced to travel during lockdown because of medical emergencies.
In July 2014 Jeetu Sharma, then just 17 years old, was attacked with acid by a 55-year-old man who had been stalking her. She played the role of Padukone's friend in "Chhappak", a movie about the life and struggles of acid attack survivors.
According to the NDTV report, the Aligarh hosptial’s public relations department said that while the hospital is concentrating on the COVID-19 virus, cancer patients in emergency condition were being treated. Professor Shafey Kidwai, the PR in-charge added that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy had weak immune systems and should avoid coming to hospitals except for emergency.