Doctors from across the country, belonging to the Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare, have written to Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday, requesting permission to visit Kashmir to review the healthcare situation. The doctors cited media reports emerging from the region that contradicted the position of the authorities, and said it was important to assess the exact situation in different parts of the Valley.

“When an abnormal situation prevails in any place for a long time, this restricts people’s activities and healthcare is likely to suffer,” they said in the letter. “We therefore need to ascertain whether such a situation might be emerging in the Kashmir valley as well, and there is need to confirm whether people are able to access required healthcare.”

The letter cited a report that claimed the healthcare scheme Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat) – a flagship programme of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre – had been discontinued in Kashmir due to the prohibitory orders that were still in place in most parts of the region. The Indian Medical Association headquarters had also been unable to get in touch with its unit in the Valley due to disrupted communication networks.

“We are keen to understand the psychological and other medical issues prevailing in the Kashmir valley in the current situation,” the letter stated. “As part of primary prevention of health conditions, an independent assessment can help to objectively understand the situation, and can recommend measures to ensure an atmosphere that is conducive for health of the population.” The doctors also added that the exercise may include the removal of some of the restrictions to ensure free access to healthcare facilities.

The signatories in the letter included 14 doctors from a variety of specialties, such as ENT surgeon Dr Arun Mitra from Punjab, vascular surgeon Dr J Amalor Pavanthan from Tamil Nadu, public health expert Dr Abhay Shukla from Pune, opthalmologist Dr KV Babu and neuro physician Dr Monica Thomas from Delhi, among others.

The network also asked the home minister to help with their visit so that any doubts about the health conditions in Kashmir would be alleviated. The visit would also assure Kashmiris that doctors from across the country were with them, the letter said.

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