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1987. It was Diwali evening. I was sitting in my eye clinic. This clinic was a part of our 4 room residence. Being the festival time, there were no patients. My practice was nearly 1 year old and recently I had taken Bank Loan for buying new equipment. The monthly instalment was due in next 2 days and I was worried about how am I going to pay with no patients around! After Laxmipujan with my family members, we were enjoying the sumptuous dinner. Suddenly I heard someone calling at the gate – “Doctorsaheb, doctorsaheb….”. I rushed out. The man was carrying his 7 years old son in his arms. He was breathless and the panic was quite evident. “Doctor, please do something. My son has injured his right eye with the cracker. The rocket came suddenly and has injured his eye. Please doctor, he is my only child… please do something”.

Yes. It was a serious injury to the eye. I did my best by performing an emergency operation and the vision could be restored. The parents were happy. I too was happy. It was a double happiness for me because my stress of “how to repay the loan instalment?” was relieved and I had now enough money with me. I was feeling happy to have met my target. Late in the night, as I was trying to relax in bed, I was however feeling rather restless. Deep in my mind, I was wondering how come my happiness arise from someone’s sufferings? Just because the child got injured, I got money as my fees and this made me happy! Strange but unfortunately true! If we look around, we notice that the whole doctor community’s happiness depends on the existence of a disease! Why my happiness should depend on someone’s illness or disease? Why I have to earn only when people suffer from disease and not when they are healthy?

Friends, the first day of Diwali Festival – Dhanatrayodashi is also celebrated as Dhanwantari Jayanti. Dhanwantari is the God and Pravartak of Ayurveda. It is amazingly interesting that whatever was written 2000 years ago stands valid for WHO even to day. The sayings like “Swathasya swasthya rakshanam” guide us to take up necessary steps so that those who are healthy should remain healthy and that the diseases should be prevented. Although I am a person working more for curative management, I am strongly convinced with need of this concept. I feel that we need to reorganise our priorities and focus on preventive medicine.

I am happy that Arogya Bharati, Ayurved Vyaspeeth & Homeopaths have joined their hands for this pooja. This pooja is very innovative & different. This pooja today involves the thought provoking lectures. With everyone over here motivated towards the preventive health, we are sure to walk out from here with a definite action plan for the upcoming year; so that the society at large is benefitted. Let us see what we can do to fulfil our dream of “Swathasya swasthya rakshanam”.

Friends, have you noticed that even the World Health Organisation has always emphasised the need of prevention of diseases. But the reality is that, doctors spend most of their time in treating the diseases. Are there no people who care for prevention of the diseases? Yes, there are. Government Health Programs, NGOs, are there but they are merely effective. There is no strong group that works actively for prevention of disease. This reminds me of a fact that I read few years ago. It said that there existed some villages in China around 500 years ago, where natives would pay the doctors a monthly fees as long as they remain healthy. However, even if one member of the family is sick, that family will not pay the doctor fees. I am amazed and fascinated by this principle on which it is based. There should be a group of people whowill be benefitted if people remain healthy. I strongly feel that it will be great if there is any lobby or group of people who will be benefitted if the society is kept disease free.

Friends, you will say, “Dr Mahatme, you are telling so many problems. Do you have any solutions too?” well I am not a magician but let us look into what can be done in today’s scenario. Take for example, people working in health insurance sector. They can form an effective group that can be motivated to work for maintaining health. This group will offer a unique health insurance policy. Clients will pay the insurance fees. The clients will be offered concessions in premium - say 10% or 20% . In return, it will be mandatory for clients to attend health education sessions arranged or recommended by the insurance company. In this way we expect to create a health conscious society who is aware about the steps to be taken for maintaining health and prevention of diseases. Those who do not attend the health awareness programs of company will be entitled for 10 to 15% rise in the insurance fees. If the people are educated about prevention of disease, the insurance company will be benefitted indirectly since less number of people will need treatment in the hospital. This will reduce the financial burden on insurance company. In this way the insurance company and the clients – both are in win-win situation.

Our research should also be health oriented and not only disease oriented. I remember an incidence during my internship. I was posted in a rural area. It was a small village (called TOLI in the local language). There were only 114 inhabitants. Water scarcity was there. Everybody was driniking water from one source – from a well which was situated in the centre of village. Suddenly there was Diarrhoea endemic in the village. Clinically it appeared like cholera. Out of 114 people, 37 suffered from diarrhoea. Water samples were sent for microscopic examination and Vibrio cholerae was identified as the root cause. We were happy that we could find the exact cause of the disease. We closed the chapter on satisfactory note; patted ourselves for managing the patients well and also doing the research part of identifying the disease! After a month one of the patients came to me and thanked for saving so many lives. But one question from this illiterate gentleman took my wicket. When I told him it all occurred because of drinking contaminated water, he asked me, “Doctorsahab, 114 people stay here. We all drink water from the same well. Then why only 37 suffered and why nothing happened to rest 77?” This was an eye opener for me. This ‘illiterate’ villager had given me an entirely new way of thinking! A thought came to my mind, why we never find out how only some people remain healthy. What are the reasons why they do not suffer? We all do research why the disease is there. But I think, its now time to know why in the given circumstances, some people remain healthy while the others suffer. This will open a new channel for preventing diseases.

There is one major setback to the preventive and social medicine. Take for example a diagnostic camp arranged by some NGO. The expectation of the society is that everything should be done free – the doctors should give free service, the paramedicals should work for free, the vehicle should be free, the medicines should be free, the operation should also be done free and so on. Initially there is lot of enthusiasm but if you consider the economics of it, nobody dares to repeat this good deed. We fail to understand that everyone needs an income to support his or her family. Working in camp means, foregoing a day’s private practice. Then what should be the solution? I think the incentives for doctors or service providers should be such that they get paid well, then only such service like camp can be run continuously. The million dollar question comes, “who will pay for it?” the money has to come from society itself. May it be Government funds or may it be corporate social responsibility. One thing is for sure; the disbursement of the funds should be in time, quick, hassle free and should involve minimum paper work.

Another option is that the paying patients (those who can pay for their treatment), take up the noble cause of helping to treat the non paying patients. Many people think that Dr Mahatme is doing lot of charity by operating free of cost on thousands of needy patients. But in reality, my paying patients are doing charity. I am just a mediator for using and balancing funds received from paying patients, for the free patients. These are some of the options that clicked my mind. Imagination and creativity have no end and I am sure you will come out with many more solutions. If entrepreneur approach can be one way, social business can be another way.

Well, working in the community for prevention of disease has a dual problem. The first is raising the financial support. Another problem is that preventing a disease does not give satisfaction to the doctor even at an emotional level. When he cures the disease and relieves the suffering and pain by his treatment, the doctor is looked upon as the God by the patient. When he prevents disease nobody even acknowledges; thus his emotional bank balance suffers. I remember when many years ago, a dehydrated child suffering from diarrhoea was brought to me in semiconscious state and I treated him. At the time of discharge, the parents were overwhelmed; with folded hands they thanked me and also paid my fees without any arguments. Now, when I enthusiastically spread a message about drinking safe water to avoid diarrhoea and dehydration, leave about appreciation; nobody even recognises my efforts! People say I am crazy about cleanliness and hygiene and safe drinking water!

The question ultimately arises in mind, with all these problems around, why at all do the social service? I think these lines can answer this ‘why’?




I firmly believe that EVERYBODY has an urge to serve the society. Everybody feels that she or he should do something for society. But, how to do it remains a big question. I hope my talk will initiate a brain storming to come out with some solution. This will make our life not only happy but more meaningful too.