Is ‘Modicare’ the panacea or balm?

Barefoot doctors! Could they help solve Health hazards?

Is ‘Modicare’ the panacea or balm?


How many qualified allopathic doctors does India have? How many millions of them does India need to almost fully attend to 1.5 billion people, a figure India should have touched and is bound to be surely confirmed by the Census in 2021? This may not cover immigrants and refugees?

Could barefoot doctors, not including thousands or tens of thousands with fake MBBS degrees, as a Sanjay Dutt film called “Munnabhai MBBS” or something like that, overcome the grave “medicare” crisis? Does the available medical care, besides hospitals, leave out more than a billion or more people outside its coverage at any given time now?

Is “Modicare” the panacea it sets out to be? Time will tell. It has been announced. It will be formally unveiled from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 this year? Will it be a political panacea or balm to woo the voters? Will it usher in a new era?

One need not question the good intentions of the Prime Minister and leave it that as it has already been written about and will continue to be written about before and after its contours are formally and informally revealed as just now it is one of the planned “miracles” of the Budget process.

But since the New Year or prior to that there has been much fuss made about the proposed National Medical Commission, which is supposed to replace the much derided Indian Medical Council at the apex within three years from now or adoption of the Bill seeking to create it. It is before Parliament and possibly now with the Select Committee.

Its proposal to allow homeopathic and Ayurvedic doctors to prescribe allopathic medicines has irked allopathic doctors around the country. The mainstream doctors say that four or five years of study and residency and round the clock work in emergencies is being overlooked by the powers that be.

The “Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy)” doctors will be brought at par with them with one stroke of pen when the President assents to the Bill. So they allege and believe.

The proposal that allopathic doctors will not be able to go into practice unless they clear a new planned test has earned their ire; and it could be what they consider a “new hazard, hassle and hurdle” in spite of years of labour treating people under the care of senior doctors.

Doctors are supposed to restrict themselves generally to being general physicians and provide temporary palliatives via medications but referred to specialists, who must normally prescribe a very large number of medicines.

But it is known that armed forces doctors are given preliminary training through bridge courses in surgery and carry out post-mortem procedures when they are posted to frontlines and lines of actual control or near these areas. They are usually newly selected, as captains, whether they are physicians, dentists or have done some other disciplines. But it is not the rule and said to be an exception.

In war times all countries of the world, including Europe, even in the 16th Century, “barbers” attended to the wounded in bunkers just behind the shooting arenas. In India also, especially northern India, they were called “nais” with miraculous formulations of herbs and creams; they made people fit for battle after an overnight of treatment.

These barefoot doctors still serve the poor, and not so poor, in the by-lanes of towns and cities and rural lanes as they travel around the length and breadth of India. They will forever remain part of the Indian scene, regardless of the Medical Council or Commission.

The classic case occurs in Ramayana on how to save an unconscious Lakshman before dawn; Hanuman brought a hillock down on his raised hand as he flew from a mountain in India to Lanka when he could not trace the “Sanjeevani booti”, prescribed by the Rajya Vaidya accompanying the army of Lord Rama at night. Being Pavanputra or son of god of wind, he could take to wings like the most powerful mortal or immortal.No doubt that Indians, especially the Saffron Brigade, hark back to the greatness of India in bygone ages and its enormous medical expertise, almost unparalleled.

But they do not recall that the kings of yore often became playboys and rakes engaged in merriment with the result that the greatest advances in medicine, science and technology, aviation and space travel fell by the wayside with decadence and Kaliyuga, the iron age.

Most of the rulers, very petty and small indeed, had no soldiers, except personal security men to guard them and their palaces and forts and were unable to defend themselves from invaders. Farmers were unpaid conscripts, as was revealed in the 1857 War of Independence.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was old and unwilling leader; he was old, primarily a poet, with his kingdom reduced to the area from the Red Fort to Mehrauli and Indian princes chose him as their leader because no one else could be considered fit to lead with unanimity.

Hanuman’s feat has been much commemorated in the Ramayana epic and in classical music.

Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.

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