Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A dream for India.

ARISE and awake! Six thousand young children in this country of yours are dying every day for want of proper nutrition! There are around 67 million malnourished children in India, much more than the total load of Sub-Saharan Africa of 45 million! Where is our societal obligation-our dharma? We are a great nation praised by some of the great brains in the west like Voltaire, Einstein, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Max Mueller, Bernard Shaw, Adam Smith, Archibald Wheeler, Apollonius Tyaneus, Rudyard Kipling, Aldus Huxley, Ken Wilber, Victor Cousins, Arnold Toynbee, Will Durant, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others. What has happened to us, the literate masses? Why have we become so insensitive to others’ plight?
With our proclivity for comforts and our greed we seem to delude ourselves in this monetary economy trying to ape the west which, in fact, seems to be looking to us for moral and spiritual guidance. Indians have a dharma, our obligation to fellow citizens. Dharma has nothing to do with religion. Even the word secularism is being abused now. True secularism simply means respect for other’s religion. There will be peace on earth if secularism is correctly understood.
Our educational system, completely distorted by James Babington Macaulay, is at the root of making our literate people to forget our own hungry brethren and live in a make believe world of the English educational system brought here to produce “a class of Indians who are Indian in color and blood but British in thinking, morals, ethics, and action.”
Hungry mothers who are pregnant produce children, if the latter survive the prenatal period, which are endowed with small vital organs like the heart, blood vessels, pancreas, brain etc. These children, if they survive infancy, do not become normal even if we feed them adequately afterwards, as was being done in the last ten years through the ICDS scheme of the government. The latter did not bring down the prevalence of childhood malnutrition in the ten years with thousands of crores of rupees spent.
We need to feed our pregnant women especially during the first trimester when the whole child is made in the womb. Nutrition of the pregnant mother coupled with good sanitary facilities in our slums and villages with toilets for every one will bring forth a new generation of healthy children.
Next curse on the hungry millions is the preset medical care system that is prohibitively expensive and not patient friendly. Poor can never access this system. We have thousands of well trained doctors in India many of whom had their training in some of the best centres in the world. If they could spare some of their very, very busy time to put together a new system of medical care which incorporates the emergency methods of modern medicine with the best inexpensive methods in many other systems of medicine after duly authenticating them through hard modern scientific methods of testing, our hungry millions could access the new integrated system to get well when they fall ill.
What surprises me is the attitude of the medical star performers, who proclaim from house tops and through the media that they are for the poor. The star performers could do a lot in this direction as they have easy access to the powers-that-be and could influence the decisions of the latter to put in place a poor-friendly policy to change the face of India. Demographics show that in the next 50 years 70% of the Indian population will be below 20 years! If that were so we can not afford to have such poor health for the majority of them, anyway. We have to act now and the star medical performers would do well to do their best.
The media, of course, couldn’t care less as the hungry are not sponsored by any wealthy organization! While the NGOs and the government bend over backwards to push vaccination down the throat of these hapless children not realizing that the vaccine needs good blood protein level to induce anti-body production to prevent the disease! The reason is not far to seek. Vaccines have their God fathers! Vaccines would be protective in well fed children but could be a curse to the malnourished child.
According to the figures from the Nutritional Institute of India there are more children dying in India due to NIDS (nutritional immune deficiency syndrome) compared to AIDS. While AIDS, which affects only a total of 40 million people in this world, gets all the limelight, NIDS is not even known by the knowledgeable people. Society needs to be deschooled from their firm belief that doctors and hospitals keep the people healthy, courts give us justice, and the police protect our honor. While all these three institutions are vital when one is ill, has had injustice done to him/her, or when one’s honor has been trampled with, they are of no use in normal circumstances.
Sleep not! Until you realize the dream of a hunger free India, nay hunger free world order. May truth prevail over untruth and mystery? Let India lead the world again. It was Arnold Toynbee who wrote that if mankind has to survive on this planet mankind will have to look to India for guidance! Twenty-first century belongs to India to lead the world to sanity.
(The writer is a physician, medical teacher, and researcher who retired as the Vice Chancellor of Manipal University in India, after having been a teacher of medicine and cardiology for well over four and half decades as also the Dean of a medical school for nearly a decade. An author of many books, he is the editor in chief of a new science journal from Laurel, MD, the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes. His co editor in chief is a world famous material scientist, Prof. Rustum Roy, of Penn State University.)

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