They have become a contradiction in terms. We lack the vision of people's politicians like Gandhi, Rajagopalachari, and others who were mindful about health issues and questioned practices that would adversely impact health. Today a profoundly sick population is fodder in the hands of market forces. Those qualified to talk on health issues are intent on destroying health and the unqualified pointing at the truth are being threatened, harassed and arrested.
India had well defined systems in place and viewed health from a holistic prism. The emphasis was on a healthy ecosystem, diverse food basket, respect for natural laws, widespread knowledge of herbs and spices, awareness of body and mind types and evolving precautionary systems based on them, developing good and healthy habits and mindsets, establishment of moral and spiritual laws for all sections of society, and emphasis on desirable goals of life. Strong individuals emerged from strong families to build strong and dynamic societies. Individuals thought in terms of contributing to society and adding to the knowledge and experience base with dedicated actions. Selflessness came naturally to people who sacrificed all for the betterment of society.
Much of the system broke down under invasions that disturbed the social structure, looted resources, killed able bodied indiscriminately, and destroyed the knowledge base. Centuries of foreign rule robbed populations of self esteem and devoid of wealth they became dependent and conceited. Robbed of dynamism society imploded and negativity and groupism prevailed. These traits paved the way for further ills as foreigner capitalized on them to divide populations and impose their own systems.
An independent India ought to have charted its own path. However politicians failed to rise up to the occasion. Intent on serving personal interests and retaining power they bowed down and accepted the slavery imposed by the virtual rulers. Those few who had the vision and opportunity to steer the nation were sidelined and died mysterious deaths. Elite groups fed by alien cultures made a mockery of independence and destroyed the country using all means possible.
Today the civil society has woken up to the immense health crisis that stares the country on the face. The recent Jana Swasthya Abhiyan conclave has come out with a charter. It assumes that if corruption is curtailed, privatization of health is reversed, and the public sector is strengthened, people would once again become healthy. Sadly it has failed to envision the holism that is central to health. It has placed all its bets on the same reductionist paradigm that has led to the crisis in the first place. Such thinking can perhaps delay the end but will never lead to health.
We need to start thinking and discussing about the overall scenario and map the journey from abundant health to normalized sickness. In the process we must pinpoint the factors that adversely affected health and pushed people into sickness. We must identify the forces that stand between us and health. We must be able to design the path back to health. We must be brutally frank and ruthless in our approach. Health and only health should be the goal. Compromises do not lead to health.
Setting right the food chain, the system of agriculture, clean up of the environment, studying the impacts of ubiquitous toxins and devising ways to reverse the process of harm, negotiating with willing members of the medical profession to put the behemoth back on the track to health, making the government accountable to corporate aggression and crimes, creating mass awareness about holistic systems are some measures that need to be taken up in earnest.
We have reached the bottom of the cycle. The only road left is to move up. Let us acknowledge the harm done and start moving.