(A comment on Central Health Ministrys activities in 1952-53.)
The high sounding record of the Central Health Ministry of Indias achievements in the year 1952-53 as broadcast by the Honble Health Minister of India on the evening of the 12th July 1953 leaves the average common man unmoved and dependent as ever before. It would have met with marked approbation had it come out during the British regime in this country.
But the independence and the advent of democracy along with the avowed objective of the formation of a Welfare State have ushered in a great change in our outlook, angles of vision and sense of values. We no longer consider the rich upper class men as the unit for which the state is to cater specially but it is the common man who is to be rightly regarded as the unit.
Some of the measures reported to have been taken are undoubtedly for the benefit of the common man, e.g. Malaria and Tuberculosis Control, establishment of All India Medical Institute at Delhi and of the Institute for Indigenous Systems of Medicine at Jamnagar, and the provision of a few mobile health units. But under the present state of financial stringency, the establishment of the Cancer Research Institute, the Chest Institute and the Virus Research Centre could have waited and the large sums of money thus saved could, for the present, have been diverted more usefully to rural health.
Research is a very expensive luxury meant for the rich only. Till the country rose to a more prosperous financial condition, we could have kept going by utilising the researches going on in other countries. After all, what percentage of population suffers from Cancer or Chest diseases as compared with those who are afflicted with general disease? Moreover, the medicines invented by medical scientists after elaborate researches are priced so highly by the manufacturers as to place them out of the reach of a large section of people. Thus, the people ultimately benefited by the researches are, again, the top few rich in the urban areas.
There is one more point deserving careful attention. The modern allopathic system of medicine, if practised unscientifically without proper laboratory tests of blood, urine, stool etc., becomes worse and more dangerous than quackery. I am strongly of the view that for the rural conditions, homoeopathy and the indigenous systems would be safer, simpler, cheaper and of greater utility than “the Scientific” system of medicine which it is the Central Health Ministrys ideal and objective to make available to the masses of India, in howsoever distant future it may be possible to do so.
Even if we accept the charge of considerable quackery prevailing in these systems as laid by the Central Health Ministry, this quackery would be far less dangerous than the scientific quackery of using dangerous medicines without proper laboratory tests for diagnosing the diseases correctly. Then, who does not know how ill equipped the rural dispensaries are for lack of sufficient funds? Homoeopathy would be cheaper than even Ayurvedic treatment, and simpler and more harmless too, and would, for equal cost, be able to carry the benefit of treatment to a much larger number of people.
So it would be worthwhile to extend the benefits of these systems to rural population through mobile medical units. According to Dr. N.M. Jaisoorya, M.P., China is extending medical relief to its large population on the basis of indigenous medicines and have introduced a One Year Course for training persons for rural health work, so that people may not be allowed to die without some form of medical aid. Why should we feel shy to make use of cheaper and simpler systems of treatment.
We in India are going just the opposite way upgrading our medical education by abolishing the licentiate course which used to attract persons from rural areas who were more inclined to settle down and work in rural areas. The lengthier and more expensive degree course in medicine allows only the sons of rich parents from urban areas to take up the course and they are most unwilling to settle down and work in villages. Whither are we going?
It is our imperative need today that the Central Health Ministry should establish a Central Council of Homoeopathy and a Central Council of Ayurvedic and Unani Medicine to plan and advise the Government of India about extending medical facilities in the country, especially rural areas, on homoeopathic and indigenous lines. The official apathy towards these systems must be broken and the best way to do that would perhaps be to eliminate the unsympathetic Allopathic intermediaries between these systems and the administration.
If a beginning is made in the right direction, we may be hopeful of reaching the destination. The building up of health activities, as in fact of all national activities, must proceed from below upwards, from the poor towards the better off and not vice versa. The emphasis must shift from the individual to the society, from the few towards the masses, from the rich towards the poor. Only then we may be sure of working in the right direction and of reaching the goal.