There is no perfect place on earth but we can strive to make our own micro worlds more equitable. Today, the world perceives India as an emerging economy poised to play a larger role in the 21st century. However, the soul of India continues to lie in villages like Sewagram and in her farmers. Gandhiji’s dream was to develop rural India ....each of us could play a role in keeping alive Gandhian teachings in myriad ways.
As with all inequities, the reasons are multifactorial and interlinked:
- Environmental (below average regional rainfall)
- Agricultural practices (rising cultivation costs, lack of small irrigation projects, falling returns from crops resulting from change in farming practices and focus on maximising output)
- Poor infrastructure (heavy load-shedding, ignorance of ancillary occupations for raising income)
- Gen-next turning to non-agricultural occupations
- Poverty (inability to repay debts following crop loss, inability to afford basic medical care for self and family, pressure of private moneylenders and banks).
- The last straw that may well and truly have broken their resilient backs is the introduction in 2002 of genetically modified BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) resistant cotton seeds - terminator seeds that must be bought every year rather than self-seed. This greatly adds to the expenses incurred.
Professor Ulhas Jajoo was the right man at the right place. There was much to do. The time was ripe for deep introspection and that he did – “why did I choose to become a doctor?”, “I selected this profession because it is a vehicle for service” and “it will provide me access to the poor”. The contemplation that had started in childhood, translated to action when he joined MGIMS in 1977.
The Jowar Health Assurance Scheme with a successful track record of 34-years fulfills the basic tenets of health care delivery. It is designed for the poor living in rural India and is accountable, affordable, appropriate, accessible, equitable and is led by proactive community-level participation from the consumer. By its success, it today serves as a role model for a compassionate way of delivering health care to the rural masses and is worthy of being replicated in other part of the world.
Income generation programmes brought increasing economic prosperity among the villages surrounding Sewagram. However, this newfound affluence brought with its own ills of greed, in-fighting and social disintegration. The villagers began to seek monetary gains as a primary focus of progress and people came together for self-serving personal interest and not as organizations of long-lasting social change.