Serving the rural poor

2009 hasn’t been the best year; especially since it was only a year ago that we were still basking in the glory of “India Shining” a catch phrase coined at the outset of the new millennium and blatantly abused ever since, to convince believers and cynics alike.

The cynics interjected: Is India shining? Rampant farmer suicides littered the tiny food producing villages across the country as the Sensex crossed 20,000 points, but expectations of the future were hardly dampened. Still, in the global economic meltdown, the fact that agriculture and its allied industries account for about 60 per cent of jobs in India, might just have kept us afloat.

Even if the two refer to the same expanse of land, the realities of India are entirely different and their fates, inextricably intertwined. But could you care less about the trials of a distant and unknown community when you are struggling to become a consummate professional and justify the monetary and emotional investments your parents have made towards your education? As you wade through the diminishing Jobs Classifieds, or struggle to hold on to one you already have, you can hardly be expected to bear the weight of the nation. There are those who have managed to find the balance ensuring they do their bit to propel the nation forward. These professionals are nation builders. Still, more are needed.

The healthcare industry in India is said to be worth US $35million and is expected to grow further, due to the low healthcare costs and professional excellence found here. In fact, medical tourism flourished on account of the stellar reputation of Indian doctors, and as international patients realized they could afford complex surgeries at $ 6000 in India, as opposed to $30,000 in their home country.

However, for many in far flung rural areas, health care is as inaccessible as ever. While the number of primary health centers, sub-centers and community health centers continues to grow, as always, few medical professionals are willing to man these centers. Factors for this trend include the exodus of qualified medical staff both nurses and doctors to countries like the US and UK (more than 30 per cent of doctors in the US are Indian) and the unwillingness of doctors to work in rural areas due to poor amenities.

A former Dean of Sion Hospital, explains why rural locations are not popular with medical students, saying, firstly when you make something compulsory you start off on the wrong foot. You don’t give them the right to choose. Secondly, if students are sent to a preplanned primary health center, they are not welcomed in that area by the people within the center itself. These people are from, the government service, and have their own processes in place. Even the amenities provided there are poor. Also, because students have to take the CET to make it to a post graduation program a tough process they prefer to use the internship period to study.

Experience in a rural areas is of immerse importance. There is an example of a group of AIIMS students, who, after working in tribal areas were inspired to start their own NGOs. When people are exposed to that life, a small percentage may be inspired to continue in that line. Most doctors will do it if they think it will make a difference to people’s lives.

Here are others as well, who has devised a way to be of service to the poorer sections, while pursuing their individual goals. A dentistry student at a college in rural, Maharasthra reveals, there are many students who run two clinics after their internship, one in a rural area, and one over the weekends in a larger town or city.