Sunday, October 6, 2013

Economically viable : Right to escape disease

Seeman, the leader of Naam Tamilar party in Tamilnadu recently made a casual comment in a public rally that caught my attention. Seeman is well known for his anti-congress stand. He blasts the UPA leaders on policy issues and that part is not unexpected. But he took a swing against its president which is not often stated publicly, may be out of moral ethics and political decency. But is of course a truth.

He told (to para-phrase) - Smt. Sonia Gandhi, the ruling UPA chairperson and Congress party president had gone to the United States of America for her treatment to an undisclosed illness. The treatment for that cannot be availed in India. They have the money and can afford to go to a different country to extend their life but what will we the ordinary citizen do if we have the same illness and cannot afford to go else where for treatment. Should we then go to the graveyard to die ? These are the people who ruled us for more than 55 years. Are they not morally responsible for this situation we are in?

I believe - this was a passing comment by the speaker and he didn't venture into it further. But it does raise few valid questions.

We don't hear political opponents of the congress say this. The general perception is that the personal health issues are beyond politics. It would not be decent to raise such an issue in open forum. People always have sympathy when health issues are brought up. But why? Not even considering a open discussion on this is anti-democratic in my opinion. The media should discuss it and deliberate. The people on the dusty streets of India should know that their rulers are a step ahead and they may not be privileged enough when it would really matter. In a open democratic societies like ours - nothing is beyond deliberation. If there is a conscious effort to leave out this story and consider it not worthy of a discussion, then it is an insult to way democracy is practiced and should be thought of as agenda-driven. The media is orchestrated for its wealthy masters and not for the general mass.

People have a take away from this - these are universal truths - most importantly they are responsible for themselves. You have to be economically viable if you or your loved ones need to avail a facility that would enable you to live longer. Dependence on government for health benefits is suicidal. You are responsible for your loved ones. The government is just a foreign direct investment (to borrow Seeman's phrase). It just doesn't care about you. It might give you free rice, wheat. But don't think if you have a illness it will fly you out for a treatment to a advanced medical facility in a foreign nation. They will definitely leave you to die.

Of course the treatment is to escape diseases and not death.

In the 1980s, MGR was on a stretcher and was moved to USA for treatment for a terminal disease. With socialistic society, we were all told - the advanced western nations (capitalistic) have better ways of treatment. In Post 1990s liberalization - Indian leaders still go abroad for treatment. what a shame! it doesn't matter which political leader he or she is or which party they are afflicted to. Rulers are the nation's conscience. People of India look to them as gods. When they themselves are dependent on a service from a foreign country., Is it not a insult to the way of life in our country?  If the political establishments are skewed to another nation for a personal benefit - would it not lead to an unfair assessment in making political decisions. Just for argument sake, If Pakistan had the best medical facilities - will a Indian leader go there for medical service at a time of conflict within the countries ?

Whose fault is this for the current state of the country. In fact it is Congress that has ruled India for much of its post independence era. It has to take credit for whatever  progress that has happened and more importantly whatever that has not happened. If you have to think rationally - the policies and performance of the governments since 1947 have created more problems than they ever solved. Basic health and hygiene is absent in most parts of the country even today. Diseases like malaria, dengue fever which has been eradicated in most countries are still common causes of death in the urban cities of the country. We lose lakhs of people to this 'avoidable' illnesses.

India started off as a Soviet ally, and preached communist ideology in first 40 years of its self rule. It never became a communist state but with the government in all fields of business was essentially navigating towards that. And then the Soviet Union disintegrated and with the balance of payment crisis of the 1990s India started opening up its market to private players. Now after more than 20 years of anti-communist policies otherwise called globalization/liberalization, India is pertaining to a capitalist line of operation. It doesn't follow capitalism in its strict form either. It is somewhere towards it. So ordinary Indians have lived through both life styles. In spite of all this - health care system has not improved the way it should be. The leader of the government leaving the country for treatment summarizes its achievements in that field.

The common argument may be that the western countries are more advanced in science and technology and hence in health. So it would make perfect sense that India hasn't progressed because it is still a developing country. If this was true, why would Cuba be better in health care. There isn't any liberalization there. Life expectancy is higher in Cuba than in most scientifically advanced countries. Leaders from Latin America like Hugo Chavez, flew to Havana for medical treatment. So advancement of science promoted by privately owned huge corporations can only give better health care is a flawed logic. The government controlled Cuba medical system has proved it.

It is an under achievement in the health sector (just like other sectors) as a country. Poor health care - is because of serious government mismanagement in post-independence India.

We need to have policies that benefit our people. Blindly following the trend of the day - either communism or capitalism which works in other country (in a different set-up) is equivalent to a person forgetting that he has legs and dependent on a person who walks, to carry them around. They would take you to where they want and not to the place where you want.

The aspiration to live longer is universal. It would be a big failure if a huge country like ours is dependent on other nations for it. Scientific research has to be encouraged and health care needs are to be affordable to all. World class treatments should be in our cities and villages and not in New York or London. Indians are highly educated and scientifically smarter compared to others around the world. Their math and science skills are second to none. Technology has to be nurtured and promoted so that people from all over the world come to India for treatment and we do them all a service of affordable treatment at a reasonable pricing.

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