MP Vidya Gayadeen-Gopiesingh Blends Seva with Politics
Photo : Dool Hanomansingh interviews MP Vidya as Gowtam Maharaj looks on.
Is the Opposition UNC working for the people? I set out last Sunday (May 06) to investigate a clinic that was sponsored by the Oropouche West Constituency. I knew I would make contact with someone from the area to take me around. I called Gowtam Maharaj and he agreed to accompany me on this exploration.
But I had to wait on Gowtam. He was a tutor of a Bal Vihar class sponsored by the Chinmaya Mission at the Blue Bird Complex on the Rochard Douglas Road, Barrackpore. I utilized that time available to eat two sahinas at Singh’s in Debe. With still time on my hand I sat there and looked on at the people turning up for breakfast at the food hut.
The car park alongside the stalls that accommodated the vehicles of customers was the initiative of Trevor Sudama, a former Member of Parliament for the Oropouche constituency. The Sudama Complex that houses the Parvati Girls High School and the Debe Hindu School was also initiated under Trevor Sudama, not forgetting the Teerath site along the Goodinau River and the Picnic Park for recreation.
Photo : HIV Mobile Unit
I have always been excited about Debe and its people. There is a Debe diaspora across this country. The first Indians to own properties in San Fernando have their roots in Debe. During World War 2 when there were food shortages, rice was sold in Debe at 25 cents per mug. Today the farmers at La Savane in Moruga and the Kernahan in Mayaro are sons and daughters of Debe. Sham Bhagiratee of Debe was at one time the biggest rice farmer in Debe. He would migrate to Fishing Pond in Sangre Grande during the rice season where he would cultivate and harvest his rice crop, load his farmal with the paddy and return to Debe.
When Gowtam came he brought along his wife Dianne. We arrived at the Suchit Trace Hindu School. It was an old one storey building. There were a few people trickling into the compound. A health mobile unit was parked at the front.
As Gowtam and I entered the building MP Vidya Gayadeen-Gopiesingh rose to her feet and welcomed us. After introducing ourselves, we told her that we would like to interview her on the health clinic and other activities in her constituency.
Photo : Dr Leon Diptee attends to a patient. His father, Leon Diptee, looks on
I found the MP to be very opened, accommodating and enthusiastic about her project. MP Gayadeen-Gopiesingh rationale for the project was “to fill a void because the Ministry of Health continues to fail the people. Basic health care needs are not provided. Citizens cannot get blood tests or even panadol in the health institutions despite the spending of billions of dollars every year,” she lamented. She informed that this was her third annual medical outreach program. “As MP I found many of the constituents deprived and depraved and getting no support from the government,” she continued.
“I am thankful to the medical volunteers who came out this morning. We have four doctors, two dentists, three dental technicians, a retired nurse and the HIV Mobile Unit and volunteers from the Diabetic Association,” she informed. “I am very grateful for those medical personnel who volunteered their time this morning. This is what the Hindus call seva,” she said.
MP Gayadeen-Gopiesingh sees agriculture as the way to diversify the economy. “The government is not doing anything to diversify the economy. This government is still depending on an oil and gas windfall. Even Saudi Arabia is diversifying. Dubai is building mega cities as part of its diversification program,” she informed.
“Our farmers can grow corn, peas, sugar-cane in the lagoon but there is always the fear of floods. The rivers and drains are not being dredged,” she said. “This government is finding money to spend on mega projects and Jazz Festival but none for agriculture. Our farmers need subventions and land to engage in agriculture,” she pleaded.
She said that the UNC Party has new ideas and vision but “the media is muzzled, not promoting the UNC’s programs and activities. Luckily, we have access to social media-face book, instagram, etc. It is through these fora that the party reaches out to the citizens,” she pointed out.
Alvin Daniel is the Communication and Research Officer of the Oropouche West Constituency. He informed that about 80 people have passed through the clinic and that critical cases are given referral letters to take to the hospitals.
“What other projects your constituency puts out?” I asked.
“Our constituency also distributed mattresses, food hampers and clothes drives to flood victims after the floods last year,” said Daniel. He continued: “Our major challenge was poor man power since government response is always poor. We were fortunate to get volunteer trucks from local contractors to take relief supplies to affected citizens.”
Photo : Alvin Daniel, Communications and Research Officer, registers a patient.
I asked: “Have the drains and rivers have been dredged and cleaned since the last floods?” He said that so far nothing has been done. “Twelve projects have been identified but the tendering process is very slow. The social service compensation program failed miserably. Farmers got no responses despite letters being sent out after the first flood in June. We had three floods- June- Divali and December. Even when compensation is given it is small and insignificant,” he lamented.
We were introduced to Phillip Diptee, an insurance agent. “I am a volunteer. My son is Dr Leon Diptee and he is one of the four doctors volunteering their time.” I was introduced to Dr Leon Diptee. He is employed at Trinity Medical Centre located at Mucurapo Street, San Fernando.
Phillip Diptee has been actively coordinating outreach clinics across the south land. “We held clinics at Todds Street Mandir, San Fernando; a Health Fair in Princes Town; another Health Fair coordinated by the PNM Youth League in San Fernando West Constituency,” he said. Phillip Diptee also gave me a commitment to help in an upcoming health fair in Bamboo No 1 Mandir, Valsayn later this year.
Zamina Maharaj, a nurse, coordinated the HIV Mobile Unit.” The Unit conducts Rapid Testing for the HIV anti-bodies and the result is available in 15 minutes. If positive a sample of blood is sent for testing in a laboratory and if it is confirmed positive a referral is given to the person to take to the San Fernando General Hospital.” The Mobile Unit was sponsored by the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA).