by Aleesha Joykutty
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists the world has ever seen, once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask.”
In our classrooms, our teachers too tell us to ask questions so that we can gain a deeper insight into the chapter taught. It stirs our imagination and makes us ponder over new questions- Who? Why? What? When? How?
Dr. Abhay and Dr. Rani Bang ,the respected doctors who worked tirelessly for the tribal villagers of Gadchiroli, one of nakshalwadi areas in India said regarding the importance of research in development, “Research has the power greater than power of seva & sangharsh. The results are always several times more than the efforts put in.” Gadchiroli has a population of about 1.2 million people settled in 1500 villages and 3 towns.
Researchers often research not for the community, but for their peers. Sometimes we also get a little jealous and self-centered and do research projects just to decorate our CV and earn points. Instead, research should be done to bring out the bitter, hidden, shocking truths about the lesser known, lesser visited, and lesser cared communities in the world. It should lead to their upliftment and empowerment. Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody. A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.
By doing a simple blood screening survey, the couple doctor reported at the heartbreaking conclusion that 6000 people suffered from sickle cell anemia and another 10,000 people were carriers of the gene. They were unaware of the seriousness of this disease. It was their attempt to do RESEARCH FOR THE PEOPLE.
When research ‘by’ the people happens, it increases the power of problem solving. The doctors, by instilling inquisitiveness in the minds of the people of the community and recognizing the collective intelligence of the community, not only spoke from the heart, but also from rational, practical, and on ground experience. And when that happens, imagine where the world would be!
Gandhi once told Dr. Abhay Bang’s father-“ If you want to study economics, then instead of America, go to the villages of India.” The same words instilled a burning fire in Dr. Abhay Bang’s heart to leave all the worldly pleasures behind and to start living among the tribes of Gadchiroli, helping them. The same burning fire has its flames spread to each one of our hearts. Devote life to a noble cause. Don’t just exist, but live.
Majority of the Indian population (nearly 80%) live in villages- where the heart of India rests. With no access to modern medicine, they still practice charms, prayers, and traditional medicine. “Village problems cannot be solved by merely providing medicines”, Dr. Abhay says. The doctor couple faced many hardships after they set up ‘Shodhgram’ in Gadchiroli. The noble doctors lived in huts made of tendu leaves with a broken bridge nearby. Then, Gadchiroli was hit by devastating floods – there was no electricity, no water, no food and no way of communicating with the outside world. The struggle they faced on that day developed their strength for the coming years. Many of their noble deeds are that they set up ‘Maa Danteshwari Hospital’ with small huts to cater the villagers with a homely atmosphere. As a result, more and more villagers visited the hospitals for curing their ailments. The doctors also helped reduce malaria. The deadly malaria disease was reduced by 60% compared to neighboring villages when they advocated the use of mosquito nets,medicines,vaccines etc. 92% of women suffered from gynecological problems, but only 8% received treatment for them. The doctors went village to village and trained midwives. They invited midwives from over 50 villages as only the local women of that area could better understand the problems faced by other women in that area.
The same thought process ran in the mind of Dr. Anandi Gopal Rao Joshi, the 1st female physician of India when her child died during labor. She promised to study vigorously and help women address their gynecological problems without hesitation. ‘High prevalence of gynecological disease in rural Indian women’ – the study conducted by the Bang’s was published in world famous medical journal-‘Lancet’.
The villages became laboratories when the Bang’s conducted research to reduce child mortality. Gadchiroli initially had a rate of 121 deaths per 1000 people that gradually reduced. Aarogyadoots -messengers of health were appointed. Breath counter -an instrument was developed to help ease the way to count breaths. Aarogyadoots proved that unschooled midwives and the illiterate youth of the village could be trained to treat diseases like pneumonia.
For new-born childbirth process, village health workers were appointed based upon the Bang’s idea of HBNC-Home Based New-born Care. Infant deaths decreased from 17% to 2.8%. Dr. Meharban Singh said, “These ordinary looking women of Gadchiroli- the village health workers, know more about neonatal care than the medical graduates of AIIMS. ”The traditional huts were turned into NICU!!”
And on goes the successful story of Gadchiroli village because of the research based development in healthcare initiated by Dr. Abhay and Dr. Rani Bang.
“Research is to see what everybody else has seen and think what nobody else has thought.” We tend to ignore the sufferings of society, thinking that as long as it doesn’t affect us, we are happy. But it should not be like this. We should take risks. If you win ,you will be happier. If you lose, you will be wiser. Help the society. Help the country and world progress. Take up a cause not with a view to oblige others, but for your own self liberation.
“Hours of research can cut months of field work. It means that you don’t know, but are willing to find out.” This states the importance of research in development.