by Nandita Saikia
Published on: Apr 16, 2003

Healthcare in India has two distinct faces: that which is meant for the rich and healthcare for the poor. While the former is comparable to what is available in much of the developed world, the poor often have to make do with healthcare that would make one think of war movies and MASH – doctors with little or no equipment conducting open-air surgeries with the sun as a source of light.

It isn't always as awful as that, but such a scene wouldn't raise eyebrows either. People often die simply because of a lack of fluids in Rural India. 'A Primary Health Centre, for example, usually has to make do with just few antibiotics: like Septran, Ampicillin, Tetracycline, Doxycycline and Flagyl as higher antibiotics are rarely stocked,’ says Dr Vandana Kakrani, Associate Professor of Preventive & social Medicine, B. J. Medical College, Pune, India. The crux of the matter may, however, lie in a lack of accountability.

Take the case of AIDS / HIV, for example. Rs. 5000 crore, with each crore being approximately US $ 212,765,960 has been spent on AIDS prevention and control since 1992, but the exercise has met with resounding failure. Over 4 million Indians are HIV positive: double the figure since 1994. There are some 1800 NGOs in India purportedly acting as AIDS activists but most of them are bogus. Their work is questionable, and as cynics put it, there are more people in India who live off AIDS and the money that should be used to prevent it than there are people dying from AIDS.

There are a number of factors that have led to this disaster and sadly; doctors have caused some of them. In rural India, where government healthcare is in theory supposed to be free, or almost free, apart from drugs not being stocked at all, there's also the problem of the drugs that are stocked sometimes being siphoned off and occasionally winding up at a doctor's private practice.

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