- India’s poor turn to bloodletting to treat illness
- 'Not all stripes to be deactivated'
- Drivers say no to setting out early despite ERP rate hikes
NEW DELHI: Mother-of-three Lilavati Devi stood perfectly still in the hot sun in Old Delhi as a practitioner and his assistants checked the veins in her hands.
Then, armed with razor blades, the practitioner sliced neatly into her skin and lets the "impure blood" drain out.
Devi suffers from chronic arthritis and firmly believes that her elderly "doctor" or practitioner, Mohammed Gyas, has the skills to cure her and others through the ancient treatment of bloodletting.
"Science and modern medicine have failed," Devi said , as an assistant poured cold water on her bleeding hands and sprinkled them with a grey-coloured herbal powder.
The 82-year-old Muslim man's treatment "was the only way to end the severe joint pain," she said.
Doctors used the thousands-year-old practice to treat illness until the late 19th century, when it was mostly abandoned and overtaken by modern medicine.
But among a handful of poorer, and sometimes remote, communities in India, where medical services are too costly, waiting lists too long or modern doctors simply not trusted, traditional practices like bloodletting are favoured.
About 50 patients queue up each day at the open-air clinic in the shadow of India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid, for the treatment which Gyas says can cure everything from paralysis to diabetes and even cervical cancer.
"The basic tenet of the therapy is the belief that impure blood is the root cause of all ailments.
"Get rid of the impure blood and your health problem is solved," said Gyas, who learnt the skill from his father and has been treating people here for more than 40 years.
"Tracking the flow of impure blood is the biggest skill required. Incisions are not made randomly, every vein has to be checked," he said.
The practitioner finds what he calls blockages, knots, clots and lumps in veins and makes incisions to unclog them, removing blocked blood and improving flow.
Before starting treatment, Gyas instructs patients to stand in the sun for about 40 minutes at the clinic, where nearby ducks and goats wander, and Muslim vendors sell mutton curry, prayer beads and skull caps.
His assistants tie cloth strips around his patients' limbs to restrict blood flow, making veins bulge nearer to the surface of the skin in preparation for a series of small incisions.
Gyas says that he does not charge patients, most of whom are poor. However they pay about 40 rupees (67 cents) to his assistants for their work – about 10 times less than what homeopaths, popular alternatives in India to GPs, charge for a consultation.
"When people come to me, they have very little money. What can I take from such people?" he said.
Gyas depends financially on one of his sons who is a shopkeeper, while another son is following in his footsteps, learning the practice from his father.
"Our treatment is like any other traditional form of medicine.
"We are not commercial doctors because people's well-being is what matters to us," said his son Mohammad Iqbal.
Bloodletting may still be practiced in some parts of India but conventional doctors dismiss it as quackery.
Diabetes specialist Rajesh Keswari said that he regularly sees patients who have put their health at risk by trying unscientific therapies and remedies such as draining blood or drinking herbal potions.
"Diabetes has to be controlled from day one, what has happened is that many people, especially uneducated and poor people, go to such quacks, take treatments which obviously do not work," said Keswari.
Although India has world-class hospitals, many Indians cannot afford them.
A decade of rapid economic growth has allowed the government to boost spending on poor and rural communities, but the public health system still falls short of meeting the needs of its 1.2 billion people, according to a 2013 Oxfam report.
Patients are not drawn to bloodletting as a last, low-cost resort.
Instead they swear by the treatment itself, describing successful results, after numerous consultations.
"Earlier, I was unable to sit or stand," said Jayant Kumar, 42, who was left physically disabled by a road accident four years ago.
"Now I can even walk without any support." — AFP
Several banks will not deactivate the magnetic stripes on local credit and debit cards that have been used overseas at least once in the past year.
But it is understood that the new rule to reduce fraud, which consumers have criticised for its inconvenience, will still hit most users here.
Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director of the Association of Banks (ABS), which imposed the new policy requiring users to "activate" the magnetic stripes on their cards for overseas use, yesterday said banks may exempt frequent travellers and those who are residing overseas.
Out of the 10 card-issuing banks here, five, including Maybank, will not deactivate local cards that were used overseas at least once in the past year.
A sixth bank said it would exempt cards that had been used overseas at least once in the past six months.
All the six banks will be sending letters to exempted customers, giving them the option of deactivating their cards.
These exemptions were allowed as banks were concerned about inconveniencing customers who live overseas or travel often, said Ong.
But she reiterated the need for the new rule, adding: "It was a collective decision taken for the good for the financial sector and for consumers.
The Straits Times reported earlier that all 10 card-issuing banks here will deactivate the magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards by Oct 1. The stripes on all newly issued credit cards will also be inactive by default.
Experts say magnetic stripes pose a real security risk, unlike EMV chips that store data in an encrypted form, making them harder to break into. While all credit and debit card payments here are processed using EMV chips, magnetic stripes are commonly used abroad.
"Anyone can buy an electronic reader to extract the information from the stripe, then clone cards for use," said Samson Yeow, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's school of digital media and infocomm technology.
According to a global survey last year by financial consulting firm Aite Group, 26% of Singapore respondents had experienced some form of card fraud in the past five years.
Singapore resident Ian Farr, 36, who has three credit and debit cards, was a victim.
He received a call from HSBC in December 2011 to verify a S$700 (RM1,780) transaction made on his credit card at a McDonald's outlet in Johannesburg, South Africa. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
Motorists say the latest round of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rate hikes may make it more expensive to drive, but is not likely to change their travelling habits.
From next Monday, drivers passing through the gantries on the East Coast Parkway (Fort Road) and Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) slip road into the ECP between 8.30am and 9am will be charged S$6 (RM15.30) – the highest rate since the ERP system started operating in 1998.
Using the Central Expressway (CTE) will also cost more with rates set to go up by 50 cents or S$1 (RM1.27 or RM2.55) at certain times.
Investment analyst Mark Tan, who drives from Marine Parade to his Raffles Place office daily, currently pays S$5 (RM12.70) for using the ECP.
He said he will pay the extra S$1, but does not expect traffic to improve.
"Even now when I pay S$5, I'm stuck in the jam for more than 20 minutes. Paying more is not likely to make the roads any smoother."
Josephine Chia, who uses the ECP to get to work in Bugis, also doubts the record-high S$6 surcharge will improve the road congestion.
"We already pay so much for our cars, why would an extra S$1 stop us from driving," said the marketing manager, 37.
Drivers, many of whom said they did not have flexible work arrangements, insist they are not likely to wake up earlier, or shift their journeys from the peak period just to pay less.
A check yesterday morning found that westbound traffic slowed to a crawl along the ECP (Fort Road) stretch at 8.30am, although roads started to clear within 15 minutes. The situation along the southbound CTE was no better, with the bottleneck building up after Braddell. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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