Skip to main content

India’s political and medical classes persistently ignoring public health


By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
Come April 7th and World Health Day will be observed once again. The focus this year is on ‘Depression’, which as the WHO statement says, “affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living”.
Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives. “Let’s Talk” is the response part of the theme; emphasising the fact that those who suffer from depression must seek help, must talk about it- but the real challenge today is are there people who have time “to listen”?
Today, many of us live in great stress. Competition and consumerism, power and possessions tend to rule our lives and our world. What matters the most is being “up-there.” Several parents today goad and prod their children, in an obsession to making them ‘prodigies’. The result is stress on all fronts and unnecessarily so. Children are literally robbed of their childhood. The work place more often than not, becomes a source of tension. Family life is marred because everyone is so ‘busy’, that value time for the other, has become a rarity. Continuous conflicts and wars, certainly adds to the depressive state of affairs everywhere!
A few years ago, ‘our doctor’ was our family physician. We went to the doctor for minor and major ailments. We were listened to and given some good counsel. Our family doctor was privy to husband-wife problems; the concerns parents had with their children and vice-versa; and of course, those with the ‘in-laws’. Some hard-to swallow powders and bitter medicine were given. One often felt better, not depressed, after visiting one’s doctor. Most often we were cured before the medicine dosage was completely finished. The doctor found time to visit us in our homes, when we were too ill to go to the clinic. Of course, there were always the big hospitals for major illnesses, surgeries etc.
Times have changed! The ‘family doctor’ in most places has become as prehistoric as a dinosaur. Every illness necessitates that a ‘specialist’ and a ‘super-specialist’ see us. Then there are the innumerable tests to be done and reports to be got. At the end there is a huge bill to pay. Several of the ‘posh’ hospitals generate astronomical billings – no patient and not even a corpse can be taken out of that hospital until every rupee has been settled. However, these expensive medical services in the country cater to a particular clientele who can afford it; for the teeming millions, in India, it is just beyond their means.
Healthcare, which is accessible and affordable, equitable and qualitative, is the right of every single citizen. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 25 states, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” The Universal Declaration makes additional accommodations for security in case of physical debilitation or disability, and makes special mention of care given to those in motherhood or childhood.
All this seems good on paper. The reality is tragically different for millions of Indians –especially for the poor and marginalised sections of society. In September 2016, the first global analysis that assesses countries on sustainable development goal (SDG) health performance was launched at a special event at the UN General Assembly. This new index developed to assess each country’s achievement on a range of health indicators ranked India a pitiable 143 out of 188 countries, six places ahead of Pakistan and way behind countries like Sri Lanka (79), China (92), even war-torn Syria (117) and Iraq (128).
Dr Vikram Patel, Professor of International Mental Health at the Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and co-author of the study says, “the reason why India continues to be one of the worst-performing countries in health is because its political and medical classes have persistently ignored public health principles which ultimately improve a nation’s health, such as addressing social determinants of disease and ensuring high-quality, accountable, universal health care for people.”
Dr. Patel hits the nail on the head. The Government shows no political will to ensure the much-needed healthcare for the poor and the marginalised. In the last Union Budget presented at the end of January 2017, the allocation for the health sector as a share of GDP has seen a marginal increase from 0.26% in 2016-17 to 0.30% in 2017-18 .This falls abysmally short of meeting the long-standing demand (articulated in the Draft National Health Policy, 2015) of increasing the total allocation for health sector to at least 2.5% of the GDP. On the other hand, the Defence allocation was hiked by a further 10%, making it scandalously to about 12.78% of the total Government expenditure.
The fact that health has not reached millions of the men and women of our country is certainly depressing news. ‘Depression’ must be addressed; but a primary question that we need to ask ourselves “Can we really celebrate ‘our health’?

*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon, engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

TRENDING

Vishwanath has been unfairly excluded from global list of 100 best cricketers

By Harsh Thakor  Gundappa Vishwanath scaled zones in batting artistry or wizardry unparalleled amongst Indian batsmen. The best of his batting was a manifestation of the divine. He was also the epitome of cricketing sportsmanship. Sadly 40 years ago he unceremoniously bid farewell to the International cricket world, after the concluding test at Karachi in 1982-83., in January end. Very hard to visualise a character like Vishwanath being reborn today His memories are embedded in cricket lovers today when sportsmanship and grace have virtually been relegated to oblivion with the game of cricket turned into a commercial commodity. Today agro and unsporting behaviour is a routine feature Vishy shimmered cricket’s spirituality. His behaviour on the cricket field was grace personified, No one in his age defined cricket more as a gentleman’s game, than Vishy. Vishwanath could execute strokes that were surreal with his steel wrists. His strokeplay resembled the touches of a painter’s brush,

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Reproductive, conjugal rights of women in India amidst debate of uniform civil code

By IMPRI Team  A Three-Day Immersive Online Legal Awareness and Certificate Training Course on “Reproductive and Conjugal Rights of Women in India” is an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and ran for three consecutive days starting from December 22, 2022 to December 24, 2022. The online paid certification was aimed to provide attendees with an enriching experience on the gender discourse with a special focus on women’s rights and the much-discussed reproductive rights in India.

Covid jabs: Pretexts cited to justify young, healthy succumbing to heart attacks

By Jay Ihsan   Truth is stranger than fiction – when dedicated doctors raised the red flag against the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, they were persecuted and their concerns barred from being heard. These honest doctors unequivocally made it known the Moderna Pfizer vaccines injure the heart and human body. One of them, Dr Peter McCullough, an American cardiologist, has repeatedly issued the clarion call to people to reject these harmful vaccines. An equally alarmed World Council for Health said the harmful Covid-19 vaccines should be removed from the market and the global inoculation must be stopped. “In Japan the vaccines were not mandated or made compulsory. The vaccines are not safe or effective enough to mandate them. The day the vaccines go away will be a day of celebration,” Dr Mccullough had lamented during an interview with India’s media outfit, Qvive several months ago. Meanwhile, the number of people jabbed with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines died soon after or have developed lifelong

Gender gap 17%, SC and ST levels of education between 7% to 14% below upper classes

By IMPRI Team  The treatment of school education in a holistic manner and improving school effectiveness in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and learning outcomes has been the aspiration of all and multiple challenges are faced to maintain and provide proper education. On the occasion of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as part of its series- the State of Education- #EducationDialogue, #IMPRI Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a special deliberation on The State of School Education In India with Prof Muchkund Dubey, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta CEO and Editorial Director of the IMPRI. The chair of the event was Prof Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) National Fellow, the Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and also a Former Professor & Vice-Ch

Rahul Dravid exhibited selflessness in heights unscaled by any other Indian batsman

By Harsh Thakor*  On January 11th maestro Rahul Dravid turned 50. No Indian batsmen were ever more of an embodiment of temperament or grit.as Rahul Dravid. Dravid was the best ambassador of sportsmanship in cricket in his day and age. In his time no Asian batsmen did what the doctor ordered, to the extent of Dravid. Dravid was manifestation of single-mindedess, tenacity and selflessness in sport. One hardly has an adjective to the ice coolness and craft Dravid exhibited in adjusting to the given situation. Rarely did any batsmen exhibit such a clinical o methodical approach to batting.

NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border: *** I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice. From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-bo

Data analytics: How scientific enquiry process impacts quality of policy research

By IMPRI Team  Given the multidimensionality of policy and impact research, tech-driven policy prescriptions are playing a dominant role in the 21st century. As such, data analytics have become integral in this space. IMPRI Generation Alpha Data Centre (GenAlphaDC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute New Delhi has successfully conducted a #WebPolicyTalk 6-Week Immersive Online Hands-on Certificate Training Course on Data Analytics for Policy Research, spanning over 6-consecutive Saturdays from October 15th to November 19th, 2022. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning. Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course, to obtain the certificate. This course comprised hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions on data discourses. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals lo

Brutal assault on Delhi Univ students as fear grips present rulers on rise of dissent

By Arhaan Baaghi  Various democratic student organizations (bsCEM, fraternity, DSU, SIO, AIRSO) had planned a screening of the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question" in the Delhi University Arts Faculty, but the guards of the university and the Delhi police along with paramilitary forcefully detained the students just because we were trying to watch a documentary that scrutinizes the role of Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots. At first when the students started screening the documentary, the electricity of the department building was cut down. Students were brutally beaten by the police and university guards. Female students were also brutally manhandled and beaten. This whole incident shows the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist nature of the government and the university authority that is working as its puppet. An activist of bsCEM was manhandled by a male security guard, who tried to pull out his T shirt. Also various female activist were dragged by male security guards and their h

Great march of migrants during lockdown: Lessons not learned, missed opportunities

By IMPRI Team  A panel discussion on “The Great March of Migrants During The National Lockdown: Lessons Not Learned and Missed Opportunities” was organized by the #IMPRI Center for Human Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi on the occasion of International Migrants Day, i.e December 18, 2022. Inaugurating the session, Ms Aanchal Kumari, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. The event was moderated by Dr Devender Singh, a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists included Prof. R.B Bhagat, Professor and Head, Department of Migration and Urban Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai; Prof Arun Kumar, Distinguished Economist, a Former Professor Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi; Ms Akriti Bhatia, Founder of People