When Amitabh’s voice did the trick to make India polio free

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan with Dr. Nata Menabde, WHO representative (India) and Louis-Georges Arsenault, Unicef representative (India), felicitating actor Amitabh Bachchan for his contribution towards polio eradication in New Delhi on Sunday.Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

When polio cases peaked in India in 2002, with 1,556 cases being detected, Amitabh Bachchan was made brand ambassador for the Polio Eradication Campaign. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh accounted for the maximum number of cases for which resistance from communities was one of the reasons.

“Initially, we were not getting as many mothers and children as we wanted, to come to awareness camps. Then (ad guru) Piyush Pandey suggested that in my films I am known for speaking loudly, so why could I not talk in the same manner in the polio ads,” Mr. Bachchan told a gathering of polio workers.

When the ad began was aired, he added, in places where one or two mothers would come, 150 started coming. “When women were asked why, they replied that Amitabh ji has become angry. We came because we don’t want to anger him further.” Mr. Bachchan, who offered his services for further health campaigns, was speaking at a function to felicitate 23 lakh vaccinators who have helped India remain polio free for the third year in a row.

Sharing the dais, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan recalled that when he started this campaign as Delhi’s Health Minister in 1994, he would tell medics: “Future generations will not forgive you for being callous. Until a single case is reported anywhere in the world, no child is safe. We need to remain alert as 94 of the 123 cases last reported in the world are from (neighbouring) Pakistan.”

Mr. Vardhan added that the success of the pulse polio eradication programme could be replicated to eradicate other communicable diseases like measles, tetanus, filaria and kala azar. “Our goal is the increase the Universal Immunisation Programme’s reach from 70 per cent to 100 per cent,” he stated.

Unicef’s India representative Louis Georges Arsenault said eradication of polio would not have been possible without the political will and commitment by successive governments. “A few years ago nobody thought that India could do, but India did it,” he said.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 19, 2021 3:31:00 AM |

Next Story