When health for all in the country is no longer a dream

Updated: Nov 14 2005, 05:30am hrs
India can be empowered only when its average woman is empowered. Till 75 years ago, she was not allowed to vote, till 50 years ago she was not allowed to go to school, till 25 years ago she was not allowed to work. Now it is all changing. Today women have started competing with men but still have a long way to go. India will be empowered only when all women are educated and employed.

On the economic front, India has now matured into one of the fastest growing economies in the world. But for me, the country can safely be divided into two Indiasthe rich and poor India. While the rich comprise just 10%, the poor are 90% and the gap is widening.

While the health status of the nation has improved, we are yet to reach our cherished goal of health for all. While on one hand, India has become a medical destination and there is reverse brain drain in the health sector, human development indices are still below acceptable marks especially infant and maternal mortality. India has been ranked 127th out of 180 countries in human development indices for three consecutive years by UNDP. The country has also not shown expected results as far as population stabilisation is concerned.

The country can again be divided into two Indias if we consider the development indicators in the north and south. If South India were an independent country, it would have been a developed country way back. It is not that I am trying to differentiate or discriminate between the two parts, but the poor development indicators in north are a crude reality, inspite of the fact that maximum policy makers were from north. Indicators in the north-east are even worse.

Gandhi has said that India lives in its villages. Over 73 per cent of Indias population still lives in the rural areas and they have access to only 25 % of the healthcare facilities. The 25 per cent who live in towns and cities have 75 % healthcare access.

To rectify the deficiency, the government has launched the National Rural Health Mission for the entire country focussing on 18 states in the north and north-east. The aim is to bring down infant mortality, maternal mortality and stabilise population, provide nutrition, sanitation and drinking water, and ensure quality healthcare for even the last person living in the last village. This Rural Health Mission is the biggest programme in the health sector post-independence and results will be visible in the next three years.

The growing economy can bear fruits only if it is able to pull up the development indices. The UPA government is trying to improve these indicators with with focus on social policies. The governments priority areas are health, education and agriculture.

All these years, people in Delhi have been thinking that India lives 60 km around Delhi. Now because of coalition politics and regional participation, policies and performances are being distributed equally.

I feel India can be empowered only when it provides education, employment, housing, food, healthcare, clean drinking water, sanitation for all its citizens. Providing these to 1/6th of the worlds population living on 2.4 5% of the worlds land is a highly challenging task. As a government, we are trying our best to fulfill these basic demands.

I feel India has a long way to go to be empowered but it is going on the right path. India can be empowered when there is participation by the community, when people abide by all laws, when policy makers and public work towards a modern and self-reliant India

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