Tag Archives: Sewa Bharati

Dr.Sagdeo’s inspiring work in Kerala

The Story of a Hospital for Tribals and the Doctor Who Made It Possible

–  By Dr.Jay Raman from USA ; Retold by Sri Shyam Prarande of Sewa International

Photo courtesy Sri Santosh Prabhu who also made a personal visit to this place.

 India has made tremendous progress in the field of heath care in recent years. Gleaming multi specialty state of the art hospitals are mushrooming all over the big cities. These medical mammoths can provide all the latest investigations and treatment, of course at a very steep price, which is beyond the reach of most of the ordinary people. The marginalized sections of the society cannot even dream of such care. They still lack even the basic necessities of health care. This is the story of a hospital which cares for the most marginalized section of the society, the tribals and the dedication of a physician which made it a reality against heavy odds.

 Kerala 2

Kerala, named God’s own country can boast of life indices like infant mortality and maternal mortality comparable to Western countries. Unfortunately these statistics are not applicable to the tribals who live mainly in the Wayanad district nestled in the Western Ghats wedged between Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnad. The verdant ever green rain forests covering the hills .the misty valleys and the clear blue lakes make Wayanad perhaps the most beautiful part of Kerala. Unfortunately this paradise on earth contains some of the poorest people in the world. The tribals form nearly 20%of the population and are scattered all over the district. They comprise of nearly 18 tribes like Kuruchia, Kuruma, Panniya ,Adiya etc. These people have a proud history. When the Raja of Pazazhi fought the British in early 19th century they formed his shock troops. When their leader Thalachal Chandu was killed by the British, the distraught Raja is said to have lamented “ I have lost my right hand.” The advent of modernity has not been very kind to the tribals who failed to keep up with changing times. This was exploited by the ruthless immigrants from the plains who converted the tribal lands to tea plantations and resorts making these simple people landless in their own lands. Along with this poor health, ignorance and social evils like alcoholism contributed to the present sad state of affairs.

The drive from Kozhikode to Wayanad is a thrilling experience. The road from Adivaram (the foot hills) to Kalpetta the capital of the district is a real Ghat road with nine hair pin curves. Accidents are common. Few weeks before my trip there was a tragic accident in which a young doctor lost his life. From Kalpetta about fifteen Kilometers into the interior lies the village of Muttil. It is here that in 1980 a young doctor Dr. Sagdeo started a small clinic Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission to help the tribals. It was humbling for me a doctor from Kerala to see that it was a doctor from Maharashtra who started this noble venture.

SV Medical Mission

I spent a few days there and Dr. Sagdeo was kind enough to brief me on all the unique aspects of this medical facility. Having spent nearly 30 years with the tribals, I could not have asked for a better source than the humble doctor. The basic concept was to take medical care to the tribals and not vice versa. The tribals are by nature suspicious of outsiders and the first step was to win their trust. Equally important was to involve them in activities aimed at their own welfare .Essentially the emphasis was on horizontal spread of health care and not the vertical one, so that the maximum people will be benefitted from the limited resources available.

From a humble beginning the medical mission has developed into 30 bed modern facility with inpatient care including maternity care, outpatient clinics with 3 full time doctors. It also has X-ray, Ultra sound, laboratory, pharmacy and other ancillary services. One unique feature is the six subcentres run by mobile units who literally take health care to the tribal homes. In addition the centre also provides specialty care in ophthalmology, pediatrics, E.N.T. etc. by doctors who visit on a regular basis.

 One field ,the medical mission has done yeoman service is in the detection of Sickle cell anaemia among the tribals. Dr. Sagdeo and his team first described this in 1994. Later in1999 All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi joined with the mission to introduce the first pilot project. More than 70% of the tribals were screened. A separate trust “SCRARF” was formed to continue the campaign .The hospital cares for a lot of inpatients with complications of sickle cell anemia. They also run an active awareness program educating them about preventive measures like avoiding marriages between Carriers of the trait.

Tuberculosis is a scourge among the tribals causing high morbidity and mortality. The centre has an active microscopic and treatment center. Alcoholism is also a major issue which leads to medical and social problem. To manage this, they have started an alcohol rehabilitation program.

The mission has been selected by the National government as the Mother NGO for the whole district to implement various national rural health programs

Dr.SagdeoDr.Sagdeo's inspiration

Dr. Sagdeo explained that to improve the health status of the tribals just improving the health facilities alone is not enough. The overall progress of the tribals is the long term solution. With this in mind, the mission is involved in many social uplift programs. Bamboo craft centers help the tribals to preserve their traditional handicrafts and also make some financial gains. This has been especially useful in rehabilitation of the sickle cell patients.

Mission also plays an active part in organizing self help groups, micro insurance programs etc to help the tribals to achieve progress through self reliance. Dr. Sagdeo had a word of caution about making the tribals too much dependant on government and other hand outs.

In the field of education and culture preservation also the centre plays an important role. About one hundred Vidya Kendras (Coaching centers) have been established among the tribal villages along with small libraries and reading rooms.

As Dr. Sagdeo said with humility the mission’s five point program of Shikshan, Swasthya, Sanskar,Swavalamban and Samajik serves nearly one lakh of people.

As I drove down the hair pin curves I remembered the poignant words of Swami Vivekananda “The best way to serve Narayana is to serve the Daridra Narayana.” I had the satisfaction that I have seen one place where Swamiji’s words are not limited to just lip service but actively put to practice.

An experiment of economic empowerment by Sewa Bharati in Jharkhand

By Maya Singh
The experiment of Self-Help Group (SHG) by Sewa Bharati proved a major success in the remote areas of Jharkhand. Presently, there are over 1400 SHGs in the state run by Sewa Bharati activists. Every group normally has 15-20 women. This number goes over 25,000. Today, these women are writing a new chapter of change after achieving self-respect and self-dependence with the help of SHGs.

SHGs have brought about a sea-change and awareness among the women who are mostly illiterate. They not only developed the feeling of taking group decisions but also to get rid themselves of the clutches and atrocities of private moneylenders. They not only changed their own life but also extended a helping hand to the needy persons of the society. Women of a similar group in Ranchi helped in eye operation of a minor child at Shankar Eye Hospital in Chennai. The women in the group of Meera, Rani and Neetu make bari, papar, pickle, spices, jute bags, etc. Arati, Anuradha and Sanyukta impart training of making candles, growing mushroom, making jam and jailly and also sell the goods made by them. Malati and Keshwanti of Tupudana received the training of making bangles by lakh and goods of jute from Jaipur. Now they not only make all these things themselves but also impart training to other women. They organise stalls of the goods made by them under the banner of Sewa Bharati in various fairs and exhibitions. Some sell the products in local markets while some move up to Delhi to participate in the trade fair organised at Pragati Maidan every year.

The group of women, led by Malati of Tupudana purchased a tractor with the help of a bank and earned money by running it on hire. When the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Khunti misguided Mateshwari Devi regarding the time of foundation stone laying ceremony of a road at 6.00 am in the morning, she, along with other women, went to the spot at 4.00 am and blocked the road to protest against the mischief of the BDO. Finally, Malati got the contract of making that road and she did the work with dedication and received appreciation from all. The SHG of women led by Arati of Namkom purchased an auto-rickshaw and got contracts of building roads, ponds and government buildings.

The women take part in social activities too with full activism. Sarika of Khunti district foiled the game plan of a married person who was going to marry another woman despite having one wife. She earned praise from the people through this conduct. Similarly, Arati, Sanyukta and Anuradha of Namkom jointly got a wedding ceremony stopped, as the groom was addict. They also forced the groom’s parents to pay the expenditure of the bride’s family on the marriage. They later married that girl with a suitable boy after some time. The women of Bokaro who mostly work as midwives helped their husbands who are mostly rickshaw-pullers and work as collie, to learn at least doing signature. Now they proudly say that nobody in their group is illiterate. They are also very punctual in their activities, which is praised by all.

Sumitra Devi and Manodevi of Dhanbad admit that their life has changed considerably after joining the SHGs and Samskar Kendras run by Sewa Bharati. They not only felt the change in their individual life but also got more respect by their husbands and the society. The women of Gumla purchased foodgrains in bulk and sold it after some time, which helped them in earning good profit.

A woman of Gumla was not going to her in-laws’ house. She had the bad habit of fighting with everybody. She levelled various allegations against her husband and every time she refused to go with him. The women of SHG persuaded her husband and sent her with him. The women of Pakud district organised a mass marriage ceremony and got married 125 pairs.

Such change comes silently and leaves lasting impact. All this has been possible only due to the involvement of the Sewa Bharati workers with the projects from hearts.