"India may be classified as a developing or middle-income country, and by
international standards, it does not spend enough on the health of its people.
Yet this masks many of India’s strengths in the health-care sector: Our doctors
are among the best trained on the planet, and as is well known by now, our
country is a pharmacy for the world, thanks to an industry built around making
cost-effective medicines and vaccines.
What is evident, however, is that we suffer from moral malnutrition—none of us
more so than the rich, the upper class, the upper caste of India. And nowhere
is this more evident than in the health-care sector.
India’s economic liberalization in the ’90s brought with it a rapid expansion
of the private health-care industry, a shift that ultimately created a system
of medical apartheid: World-class private hospitals catered to wealthy Indians
and medical tourists from abroad; state-run facilities were for the poor. Those
with money were able to purchase the best available care (or, in the case of
the absolute richest, flee to safety in private jets), while elsewhere the
country’s health-care infrastructure was held together with duct tape. The
Indians who bought their way to a healthier life did not, or chose not to, see
the widening gulf. Today, they are clutching their pearls as their loved ones
fail to get ambulances, doctors, medicine, and oxygen.
I have covered health and science for nearly 20 years, including as the health
editor for The Hindu
, a major Indian newspaper. That time has taught me that
there is no shortcut to public health, no opting out from it. Now the rich sit
alongside the poor, facing a reckoning that had only ever plagued the
vulnerable in India.
Averting our gaze from the tragedies surrounding us, remaining divorced from
reality, in our little bubbles, are political and moral choices. We have been
willfully unaware of the ricketiness of our health-care system. The collective
well-being of our nation depends on us showing solidarity with and compassion
toward one another. No one is safe until everyone is."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics