Professor K.S. Jacob's article, “Infectious diseases and the colonised mind” (March 25), deserves appreciation because it highlights the simple truth which has eluded policymakers and researchers: domestic health, while starting at the grass-roots level of provision of clean water and sanitation, should also promote disease management in the Indian context.
A case in point is the management of elephantiasis or filarial enlargement of the limb/breast/scrotum. Victims of this disease have not only to contend with social ostracism but also struggle with the weight of the enlarged anatomy with no surgical help in sight. Consequently, the irony of having many state-of-the-art hospitals in even small localities of urban conglomerations with no solution to the suffering patients, except the desultory handing out of Diethylcarbamazine tablets through local health workers. It is true that health services have seen a geometric induction of capital in management and investigation of diseases but this has catered only for the urban middle class. Another case in point is the mushrooming of TASMAC liquor shops all over Tamil Nadu that contribute huge revenue to the state exchequer. Contrast this with the number of State institutions that exist to help people overcome the addiction.
Professor Jacob's call for an indigenous health agenda in place of subservience to vested interests and international pharmaceutical lobbies is thought provoking. Whereas much hype was created over swine flu, the loss of lakhs of lives due to tuberculosis, malnutrition and the like was never discussed in much of the mainstream media. Disgusted with the indifference of policymakers to the most vital area of public concern, the veteran academic has raised a timely alarm. Funds allocation to health in India is very low compared to what has been set apart by much smaller nations. Secondly, the lion's share of the allocated funds is garnered by the richer sections. There is no will or decisive move to provide clean water and sanitation.
At a time when health, education and jobs are tasks forced by American people on their government, the absence of a popular upsurge in India emboldens the powers-that-be. The pro-imperialist policy agenda of the country needs to be challenged.