BY VEENA RAO
Photos by Bytegraph.com
Atlanta, GA: India’s new minister of health and family welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan, a doctor by profession, expressed his intense desire to ensure that every Indian is assured health insurance and health assurance. Speaking exclusively with this reporter during the reception hosted in his honor by the Consulate General of India in Atlanta at the Palace Restaurant on June 26, Dr Harsh Vardhan said he was in the process of studying various models that have evolved over the years in India and other parts of the world, including the Obamacare experiment.
Obamacare is still in the process of evolution, and not free of criticism. “But there are good things also. The program is certainly well-intentioned,” he said.
The minister believes that a new and integrated holistic system of medicine is the need of the hour, which should incorporate the best of all systems including Ayurveda, Siddha, Yoga, Naturopathy and Homeopathy (AYUSH). He said his government would promote AYUSH in a big way. “Modern medicine has taken birth from AYUSH. We would like to see AYUSH doctors get their place in the national health program and in the care at the primary health level. We would like to see integration between AYUSH and the modern system of medicine, so that both work with a holistic approach for the welfare of people,” he said, adding that it was his desire to improve the standards and research in AYUSH because it is a science that is associated with the glorious history of India.
In response to a question on lack of public toilets putting India’s women at risk of sexual assault, he said the government has to think of several things that the country is lacking in, and not just public toilets. “There are several major issues before the government like lack of sewers and potable water. Millions are still below the poverty line, 37% are still illiterate, 88% pregnant women are anemic, and malnutrition affects millions of kids.”
Earlier in the evening, in his address before a motley group of invited guests that included heads of associations, members of the Oversees Friends of BJP and other supporters, Dr Harsh Vardhan promised an India that would have a future more glorious than its glorious past. He said his government wanted health to be a social movement that would ensure that every person in India would have access to basic health resources. “We want to use resources and manpower from all over the world for this. This government will work on the advice of professionals.” he said.
He dwelled on his meeting with United States Secretary for Health and Human Services, Syliva Mathews Burwell in Washington DC, which he described as “fruitful”. “We discussed plans to share research and strategies in health care,” he said.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, very shortly, the government would announce a mechanism for physicians of Indian-origin in the US and elsewhere, who are keen to give back to their birth country, to go online and find out where and how they can serve.
The minister also thanked the many friends of India in the US, who he said, worked hard to ensure a historic victory for the Modi-led BJP. “I met several friends of BJP who were so enthusiastic when they visited India. They were keen to know what they could do to make Modi the prime minister of India,” he said.
“Modi’s popularly is to be seen to be believed. This was truly a historic victory, a never seen before phenomenon. Modi was a symbol of the aspirations of millions of people- the young, the old, male, female… he is a symbol of honesty, transparency and good government. I assure you, we shall genuinely work for all of you. We will ensure that India becomes a super power again.”
Consul General of India in Atlanta Ambassador Ajit Kumar earlier introduced the health minister to the audience. Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage (GAPI) president Dr Indran Indrakrishnan presented a plaque to the minister. Dr Vardhan was also felicitated with garlands and bouquets by OFBJP president Vasudev Patel, Global Indians for Bharat Vikas president Dhirubhai Shah and Bobby Patel of Shakti Mandir. Sneha Mehta handed over a memorandum with suggestions.
The health minister’s two-day Atlanta visit also included a four-hour long meeting with top experts at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The CDC delegation shared information with me on research progress into a variety of diseases. The future would see more collaboration between India and this premier institute. I announced that it had been decided that CDC would designate a doctor who would work for better coordination of the India projects of the organization by acting as a communication bridge between the director and myself,” he announced on his facebook page.