MUZAFFARGARH, March 27: For 26-year-old ‘A’ who has been scoring first division throughout her educational career from matriculation to MSc and MEd, the future suddenly turned bleak when she was diagnosed with hepatitis C which also meant she lost the job she had acquired on merit after waiting for long.
Belonging to rural area of Muzaffargarh district, ‘A’ was selected for the post of educator on Feb 28 after competing with thousands of other candidates.
“The day when I saw my name among the selected candidates was the happiest day of my life,” said the veiled woman in a broken voice. But, at that moment she didn’t know her happiness was short-lived.
Just three weeks after as she joined the school (after completion of her two-week training) ‘A’ was told she was medically unfit for the job. During the medical fitness test, a pre-requisite for joining government service, she was tested positive for hepatitis C.
‘A’ is not the only candidate facing bleak job prospects and the pangs of living with a life-threatening ailment that takes years to cure and has a considerable treatment cost.
As many as 13 out of 29 candidates selected for the job, including three women, have been tested positive for the disease and were ultimately disqualified for any government job, said doctors of the district headquarters hospital where medical tests were held.
All the disqualified candidates had done BSc and MSc with professional qualification of BEd and MEd.
Talking to Dawn, these candidates said they had got appointment on merit and on February 28 the education department had asked them to join the training course and then the schools. After joining the schools, they had to submit their medical fitness certificates issued by the DHQ hospital. Last week, they were examined at the DHQ hospital and 13 of them were tested positive.
A DHQ hospital doctor feared the number could swell because 400 more candidates were to be tested during the next two weeks.
One of the affected candidates said the hospital doctors had advised them to get another test conducted from the PCSIR laboratory in Lahore.
They appealed to the Punjab chief minister and chief justice of Pakistan to provide them relief by saving their jobs and ordering their treatment free of cost.
Education Executive District Officer Malik Masood Nadeem said without medical fitness the candidates could not join the job as it was also necessary for issuance of their salaries.
DHQ Hospital’s Dr Mehr Iqbal said there were three sugar mills, power plants, several textile mills in the district and effluents discharged from them were causing contamination of underground water which was resulting in spread of hepatitis in the district. Access to clean water was a major issue in the district, he added.
A water filter plant with an estimated cost of Rs400 million was approved for the area but it was in doldrums because of non-availability of suitable land. Initially it was to be set up in the sports ground of the local government degree college but the plan was abandoned as according to government policy school or college land could not be used for any purpose other than education.
Zia Rehman, the executive director of Awaz Foundation, an NGO, said the organisation was working on the issue. He said according to the data collected by the foundation thousands of people had so far been affected by hepatitis, A, B and C in the district.