Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pallavi's prescription

Pallavi Aiyar is back to doing what she does best. In a typical 'pallaviyish' piece on China-India Joint Medical Mission, she waxes eloquent on an Indian doctor who after obtaining his degree from India, went to China and 'served' the Chinese poor. You might wonder whether Pallavi actually acknowledged that there are poor people in China. But, if she couldn't play with words, she wouldn't have been sitting in Beijing that is so close to her boss's heart! According to her,

This was one of the poorest areas of China, isolated from the changes sweeping across other parts of the country.

Message to readers: While every other place in China is bustling with economic activity, this place alone has somehow missed out.

She then goes on to demonstrate how to treat an issue with kid gloves. Commenting on the pathetic Chinese health system, she says:

In China on the other hand, even State-owned hospitals charged relatively hefty fees from their patients regardless of their ability to pay, with the result that the majority of those in the countryside were simply unable to afford hospital treatment.

Having said this, you can see the kinder side of Pallavi

It had not always been so. For three decades after the communist revolution in 1949, China relied on a socialised health care system under which collective farms and factory communities took responsibility for the provision of health care. In the countryside, barefoot doctors, although only trained in the rudiments of medicine, provided medical services for all. It was a basic system, but functional and largely egalitarian.

Message to the readers: Don't think that my boss' bosses don't care for their people. We did have a very good system.

So what went wrong? The Chinese realized that it is foolish to cling to a failed ideology and did everything that is in the "Dont Do" list of the left lunatics. Pallavi chooses to give it a gloss and term it "reforms".

Since embarking on economic reforms in the late 1970s, however, China went about
systematically dismantling its own health care structures so that today the country has one of the most unequal public health systems in the world. In 2000, the World Health Organisation ranked China 144 out of 191 countries on the basis of fairness of access to health care and fairness of individual contributions to cost. India, with half of China’s per capita GDP, ranked ahead of the mainland at 112th place.

Hasn't Pallavi unwittingly admitted that economic progress in China was possible only after it abandoned its commie ideology? China is more capitalistic than most capitalist economies. When only capitalism - and not communism- fuelled Chinese growth, I fail to understand why Ram and his cohorts bask in the glory of such economic progress. They even exhort India to emulate China!.

In Gegongcun, Zhou Lu Hua, an impossibly wrinkled 73-year-old woman, broke into tears while being examined by Dr. S. Anuradha of Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College. “I’ve been sick for so many years,” she wept, “but I just don’t have the money to go to a hospital.” Zhou suffered from hypertension and heart disease as well as osteoarthritis. Her husband had died of cancer the year before, at home. The family could not afford to have him admitted to a hospital.

This is indeed a very very sad commentary on the state of the Chinese health care system. In fact, the failure of the state to provide proper medical attention to its people should have been the theme of the piece. When Paul Krugman can devote column after column lampooning the American helath care system, why isn't there a commentary on the equally pathetic Chinese health care system? Aren't the double standards blatant?Even this information is hidden away in the middle of an essay on a Sunday Magazine and not on the centre pages of the main issue.Does Chindu not want its readers to know the ugly under belly of China's lopsided development? Or are only Chinese success stories worth a mention? Even if these issues are brought to Ram's notice, he would be at his dismissive best saying the reporting is "fair, balanced and objective".

Despite all these, Indian doctors must emulate their Chinese counterparts. Can you teach an old (and faithful) dog new tricks? She tries hard to find positives in the Chinese health system and since we Indians are morons, we must lean to do things the Chinese way.

Several of the Indian doctors in the mission felt that policy makers in New Delhi should start thinking about insurance schemes for India’s rural majority as well. They were also impressed with the cleanliness, infrastructure and equipment to be found in even the district-level hospital in Tang County.

She fulfills her communist obligations by paying glowing tributes to one Dr.Dwarkanath Kotnis, who studied medicine in India and went to China , fought alongside the Communist guerrillas , joined the CPC and did a remarkable service treating the Chinese.

One member of this medical mission was a doctor called Dwarkanath Kotnis. Kotnis was 28 at the time and had only recently graduated from medical school. With slicked-back hair and a shy smile, the young Kotnis was a simple middle-class boy from Sholapur in Maharashtra. He would however, go on to become the single most enduring symbol of the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai sentiment, characteristic of the 1940s and 50s; his story taught in primary schools across China for decades.

Kotnis was the only member of the medical team to never return to India. He stayed on, fighting on the Chinese side and eventually joined the Communist Party of China. In mid-1940 Kotnis was sent to work in Hebei province, arriving in Gegongcun Village in August, where he stayed treating the war-wounded for the rest of his life.

So what? Does she want other India doctors to follow suit? She terms him an "icon" - the title of her story is "In the footsteps of an iconic figure ". Aiyar is unapologetic about her communist leanings and so is the rag she writes for. This article is a celebration of Dr.Kotnis's work and is of course a Chindu exclusive. We dare not question the pathetic health care system in China.

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