Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Smt. Sushma Swaraj launches revised edition of A Tale of Two Drops by Dr Harsh Vardhan

Pulse polio launched by Dr Harsh Vardhan in 1994 about to take India to polio free certification by WHO

The former Health Minister of India and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, released today the revised edition of Dr Harsh Vardhan’s 2004 book, A Tale of Two Drops (Ocean Books, New Delhi).

The original edition and its subsequent reprints detailed how the original Pulse Polio campaign in Delhi was conceived by Dr Harsh Vardhan, then the Health Minister of the new state, and carried to its logical conclusion on October 2, 1994. The following year, thanks to bipartisan support, he was able to persuade the entire health machinery of India–government and non-government – into replicating the Delhi experiment.

The new edition comes with the present position in India’s fight against polio. On January 13, there occurred in Howrah, West Bengal, the unfortunate death of a little girl from polio. As per World Health Organization’s rules, a country has got to have zero cases of polio for full three years before being eligible for polio free certification. On January 13, 2011 India is expected to join the proud community of nations which have made polio history.

India, thanks to the Pulse Polio campaign’s sensational success, has already left the group of polio endemic countries. As of today only three countries belong to this group –Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – but India could well have been part of it had Dr Harsh Vardhan not taken the bold initiative back in 1994.

Dr Harsh Vardhan continues to be paid glowing tributes by the world community of health experts. After all, mankind’s war against polio is the second biggest public health initiative since the eradication of small pox in 1970s. India, because of its huge size and population and diversity of terrain and development status, was considered forbidden ground by WHO’s experts. This was admitted as recently as 2012 at a “Polio Summit” organized by the Government of India which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. At that event, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Polio, Dr Bruce Aylward, had recalled how as a young official back on tour to Delhi in the early 1990s, he had been awestruck by Dr Harsh Vardhan’s commitment and energy.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said on the occasion that when the history of polio eradication in India is written, the role of the common man, woman and child –apart from the government officials, doctors and paramedics – will be recalled glowingly.

 “I recall the Polio Senas that we had developed. They were young school children from our government schools. With great sense of pride and commitment they went about visiting homes and persuading people to bring their babies out on Pulse Polio day. Today they are men and women with their own children. I wish them the best and hope the new generation of Delhi’s children will respond with equal enthusiasm when I launch more mass movements against other problems faced by the society, etc,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

 “There was negativism all around, he recalled. People today say that my plans to eradicate corruption through the prevention route (using state of the art e-governance mechanisms, videography of key Govt. meetings, expanding the scope of  RTI Act, etc.) would be impossible to carry out. I recall how the same negativity was used when I conceived Pulse Polio,” he said.

 “A lot of people told me that the logistics were too awesome. But I was convinced that if there is a will there is a way. If the Election Commission and the governments can deliver ballot papers to the remotest of areas over varied terrains all over the country on a single day to enable voting, why would it be difficult to deliver polio vaccines?”

He pointed out, “Political will backed by administrative determination can overcome any problem. It is often said that Delhi Police being a central government organization does not cooperate with Delhi Government. But in the early 1990s, the then police commissioner of Delhi, Mr Kaushal, not only deployed 52,000 of his constables to make Pulse Polio possible, he also put at our disposal hundreds of Gypsy vehicles. The Home Guards and civil defence officials of Delhi also played a vital role. There were no hitches.”

“There is, above all, a common goal. Everybody, regardless of what he/she does or how he/she is placed in life, wants that goal to be achieved and would like to contribute in his or her own way. The job of a leader is to collect the diverse synergies and channelize them towards the common goal,” he pointed out.
Future Resolve

Dr Harsh Vardhan, who won highest awards from World Health Organization, Rotary Foundation, Lions International, Indian Medical Association and many other national and international organizations, said today that he would continue to work ceaselessly to eradicate preventable diseases from Delhi and India. Of all the honours bestowed upon him, he cherishes most the title “Swasthya Vardhan” given to him by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“Health is a bipartisan subject. I call for help from my friends in the political class and all others to join us in making India’s pulse polio story the gold standard in mass immunization programmes.  In the coming days I will reveal the specific plans that I have for making Delhi’s citizens totally covered by a unique health plan which will be the envy of the whole world,” he said.

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