T H E H E A R T B E A T O F T H E I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
JANUARY 12, 2018
MCI (P) 043/09/2017
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One Rupee Doctor
Dr Ravindra Kolhe forsook the opportunity of a lucrative
practice and embraced a life of hardship to serve a remote
village that lacked medical care
REPORT ON PAGES 12 & 13
LEARNING BY GIVING THEIR TIME AT DOCTOR’S VILLAGE: PAGE 14
NOW A ROLE MODEL
PAGES 4 & 5
AT MBS FOR PBD
PAGES 6 & 7
WHAT NEXT FOR INDIA
IN SOUTH AFRICA?
festival in Gujarat
THE week-long interna-
tional kite festival that
began on Jan 7 in Ahmed-
abad saw kite enthusiasts
from around the world
displaying their skills
in cities across Gujarat
The festival was
inaugurated by Gujarat
Chief Minister Vijay
Rupani at Sabarmati
It saw nearly 100
kite enthusiasts from
18 Indian states and
hundreds of them from
About 150 delegates
from 44 countries,
including Britain, South
Korea, New Zealand,
China, Indonesia and
Malaysia also participated.
Now, national anthem not
mandatory in cinema halls
OVERTURNING its earlier order,
the Supreme Court has an-
nounced that playing the national
anthem before screening movies
in theatres is no longer compul-
Attorney General K.K. Venugo-
pal urged the court to modify its
2016 order substituting “shall”
with “may” for the playing of the
national anthem in cinema halls.
The ruling by a bench headed
by Chief Justice Dipak Misra
followed an order of November
2016 when an apex court bench
including Chief Justice Misra had
made the playing of the national
anthem compulsory in theatres
before movies are screened.
Free pilgrimage trips for
Delhi’s senior citizens
OVER 1,000 senior citizens from
Delhi above the age of 60 can go
on free pilgrimage trips every year
under a new initiative, Mukhya-
Women handle the
overall operations of the
station from departments
such as railway protec-
tion force, operations and
commercial and ticketing.
Haryana project to
from waste to start
on Jan 15
THE Haryana govern-
ment is working towards
natural gas from waste
and using it to generate
The project, costing Rs1
crore, will start on Jan 15
in Karnal, Haryana.
According to an IANS
report, the project will
generate 1,000kg worth
of gas, 2,000kg of bio-
fertiliser and 3,000 units
of electricity every day, which will
be used by the municipal corpora-
Land scarcity makes
civic canteens go mobile
INDIRA canteens, which provide
food to the poor at subsidised
rates, will soon be made mobile
due to scarce land in Bengaluru’s
They will be unveiled on Jan 26.
The civic authorities have de-
cided to park 24 mobile canteens
in the city near public parks and
They will be equipped with
closed-circuit television cameras
and Global Positioning System to
track their locations.
Second bird festival
in Goa will feature
an oceanic birds tour
THE second edition of the Goa
Bird Festival will be held from Jan
12 to 14 at the Cotigao Wildlife
The festival will see some of
India’s top naturalists, photogra-
phers and artists present at the
One of the highlights of the
festival is the oceanic birds tour at
the Arabian Sea.
Apart from that, there will be an
origami workshop, films screened
on nature and lectures such as on
the conservation of vultures.
Bengal faces an
overproduction of potatoes
FARMERS in Bengal are losing
money due to the overproduction
Seikh Mofizul, a farmer in the
Purba Bardhaman district has lost
According to a report by The
Hindu, farmers were only get-
ting Rs1 a kg instead of the usual
To add to the woes, potato
farmers are not willing to take
out their crops from cold storage
as they do not have the money to
pay for the rent.
This has affected owners of cold
storages as they have no choice
but to keep the crops as they are
not getting rent from the farmers.
mantri Tirth Yatra Yojana, by the
The proposed destinations
include Badrinath, Kedarnath,
Haridwar and Mathura.
“It is estimated that on an aver-
age, the scheme will incur a cost
of Rs7,000 a pilgrim. The pilgrim-
age duration will be of three days
and two nights,” said a senior
Delhi government official.
After interested senior citizens
file their application for the trip,
they will be chosen via a draw of
Kolkata airport equipped with
landing system to fight fog
THE Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
International Airport in Kolkata
has started implementing a new
landing system that will allow
flights to operate when the vis-
ibility drops below 50m.
The system is helpful when
airports are affected by fog during
December and January.
It is the fifth airport after Delhi,
Jaipur, Lucknow and Amritsar to
be equipped with such a system.
Mumbai’s Matunga station is
operated by women only
THE station in Matunga on
Mumbai Central Railway (CR) is
manned by 41 women, under the
charge of station manager Mamta
The initiative, which was rec-
ognised by the Limca Book of
Records, was taken by CR general
manager D. K. Sharma in July last
year with the aim of empowering
Iconic displays at India’s republic day celebrations
STATUES of different Indian classical musicians along with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi (above) will
be displayed on the Tableau of All India Radio, the national public radio broadcaster of India, during
the Delhi Republic Day parade on Jan 26.
In the picture, an Indian craft worker is seen cleaning the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. The statues of
Indian classical musicians Alla Rakha and M. S. Subbulakshmi are also seen inside the workshop
Himalayan littering leading
to brown bear habit changes
Life in forced
bear cub at the
Feeding on food waste left behind by
campers, Himalayan brown bears are
losing their ability to hunt, jeopardising
their chances of surviving in the wild
ARGE-scale littering in the
Himalayas by trekkers and
campers has led to Hima-
layan brown bears — a critically
endangered species close to extinc-
tion — being drawn to human de-
tritus and losing their natural abil-
ity to hunt.
Conservationists say such bears
rescued recently from different re-
gions of Jammu and Kashmir will
never return to the wild.
One such “conditioned animal”,
a nine-month-old brown bear, was
found running haywire with its
head stuck in a food can at a camp-
site for Amarnath pilgrims and hik-
ers in Panchtarni last September.
The cub was rescued by the state
wildlife protection department,
airlifted to Pahalgam and kept
under observation for almost two
Last December, the officials fi-
nally sent it to the permanent care
of a bear rescue centre run with
the help of animal welfare organ-
isation Wildlife SOS, where it will
spend the rest of its life.
“The bear seemed to be an or-
phan and was living off kitchen
waste and garbage.
“They are opportunist feeders
and since there is no proper dis-
posal of kitchen waste, especially
at the campsites, they become ha-
bituated to this, losing their natural
instincts to hunt,” wildlife warden
Intesar Suhail told IANS.
Besides, due to their dependen-
cy on the garbage, experts also fear
the hostility of people as another
threat the bears face.
According to Mr Suhail, this is
not the first such instance and he
has witnessed several bears living
off and wandering around garbage
in Dras, the Himalayan gateway to
As in the rest of India, solid
waste management is also an issue
in the Himalayan state with sum-
mer capital Srinagar alone generat-
ing 450 tonnes of municipal waste
Now, this is also affecting the
Hibernate no more
Good hunters and heavy eaters,
brown bears stay with their moth-
ers for the first two to three years
and, before going into hibernation
in winter, eat to their full potential.
However, once they begin losing
their natural instincts due to alter-
native and easily available food
sources, they stop hibernating.
“Only wild bears hibernate for
about four months as food is lim-
ited in winter.
“Those under (human) care or
those who have become highly de-
pendent on human food waste or
crops do not generally hibernate
because they are getting their full
quota of food,” Dr Pankaj Chan-
dan, head of Western Himalayan
Landscape at WWF, told IANS.
Speaking of the shift to alter-
native food, he said there is no
scarcity of the brown bears’ prey
base, which includes bharal or blue
sheep and even ants.
Ms Alia Mir, Wildlife SOS man-
ager in Kashmir, said that even if
the nine-month-old cub is sent
back into the wild, it will perish
as it is too dependent on human-
“There is no estimate to their
population,” wildlife warden Imti-
yaz Ahmad Lone told IANS.
Mr Lone, on Dec 27, “re-res-
cued” a three-year-old Himalayan
brown bear from Sonamarg after
the animal was found raiding crops,
killing livestock and wandering
around the human settlement.
The bear was earlier rescued in
October and released into the wild
far away from where it was res-
cued. It, however, returned.
“The bear got used to feeding on
manure. Such animals lose their
natural instincts and their chances
of living in the wild are bleaker.
Their ability to find food through
hunting is lost,” Mr Lone pointed
He added that under the Wildlife
Protection Act, the priority should
always be to return a rescued ani-
mal to the wild, but this is not al-
ways the option in Kashmir, espe-
cially with “seasoned bears”, both
black and brown.
“It returned and we had no other
option but to send it for permanent
care at the rescue centre in Dachi-
gam National Park,” he said, recall-
ing that years ago, two Himalayan
brown bears were rescued and sent
to permanent care. Later, they died
of old age.
Now, the bears are living their
life away from the wild, in two dif-
ferent high-care rescue centres. The
nine-month-old bear will share its
space with two Himalayan black
bears at Pahalgam while the three-
year-old-will live alongside four
others at Dachigam.
According to vets, a Himalayan
brown bear may live up to 35 years
in captivity and 27 to 30 years in
Apparently, the rescued ones
will have at least three decades to
adapt to their new living arrange-
Indo-Asian News Service
One Rupee Doctor
Simple life... (Extreme left) Dr Kolhe; (left) photos of him in his younger days treating villagers;
(above) the doctor in his farm and (below) with his wife, two sons and the wife and children of
his older sons.
Dr Ravindra Kolhe forsook the opportunity of a lucrative practice and
embraced a life of hardship to serve a remote village that lacked medical care
HE turning point in Dr Ravindra
Kolhe’s life came in 1983. He hap-
pened to see David Werner’s book
Where There Is No Doctor. The cover
showed four people carrying a patient.
Written below were the words: “Hospital
30 miles away”.
This solved a dilemma — “Where
should I start my journey?” — in the
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Vino-
ba Bhave (an advocate of non-violence
and human rights), he decided to use his
medical school education to help those
deprived of medical care.
Much to the disappointment of his fa-
ther, Mr Deorao Kolhe, who worked with
the Indian Railways, Dr Kohle did not
plan to return to his village — Shegaon,
in Buldana district of Maharashtra — af-
ter graduating from the Nagpur Medical
Instead, Dr Kolhe searched for a re-
mote place that did not offer any medi-
cal care. He found Bairagarh, in Melghat,
In the 1980s, the motorable journey to
this small village started from Amravati
and ended at Harisal. From there, Bai-
ragarh was a 40km walk.
The doctor recalled what his professor
had told him: “When I told Dr Jaju about
my plans, he advised me that before prac-
tising in such a remote place, I should
master three skills.
“First, delivering a baby without the fa-
cility of sonography or blood transfusion;
second, diagnosing pneumonia without
an X-ray machine; and third, curing diar-
rhoea. I went to Mumbai (then Bombay)
and spent six months learning these tech-
Despite being armed with these skills,
when Dr Kolhe reached Bairagarh in
1987, he realised how unprepared he was.
“I started my practice, charging Rs2 for
the first consultation and Rs1 for subse-
quent visits. But on the 13th day, I faced
my inadequacy. A man had lost his hand
in a blast. I was not a surgeon and didn’t
know how to treat him. That was when I
decided to do my MD from Nagpur,” said
Dr Kolhe, who left Bairagarh in 1987 and
returned after his marriage in 1989.
“It took time for the people to accept
me. I had three patients on my first day.
In 15 days, the number increased to 25
and since then, there has been no look-
ing back. People now believe in medical
science, though some minds still ruled by
superstitions get the help of tantriks for
treatment,” he adds.
His pioneering thesis, Malnutrition In
Melghat, attracted global attention after a
BBC Radio coverage.
The infant mortality rate then was an
alarming 200 per 1,000 infants. It has
come down to 40 per 1,000.
“This figure will decrease as the govern-
ment and local NGOs are working hard,”
says Dr Kolhe modestly, not crediting
Getting married was not easy for him.
He had decided that he will return to
Bairagarh (after his medical studies) only
after finding a like-minded life partner.
It had to be someone who was willing to
face the hardship of living in Bairagarh.
Dr Kolhe’s conditions were, first, the
40km trek to Bairagarh. Second, it would
be a Rs5 court marriage. Third, his wife
would have to manage on Rs400 a month,
his estimated earning.
And finally, she should not be ashamed
to beg — not for herself but for those who
needed it more than them.
But his bride was waiting, and in 1988
she came in the form of Dr Smita Manjare
from Nagpur. She had a well-established
practice there, which she willingly gave up
and followed Dr Kolhe.
When Dr Smita joined him, she, too,
had to gain the respect and acceptance of
the villagers like her husband.
This came about when Dr Smita was
pregnant with their first child.
Dr Kolhe decided to deliver the baby
himself, in the same manner as he had
done for the village women.
But complications arose and the baby
was born with meningitis, pneumonia and
septicaemia. The options were to take the
mother and child to the nearest hospital
in Akola or continue treating them in Bai-
Dr Smita decided to stay.
This gesture, of “being one of them”
instantly won her the approval of the vil-
“Fatalities in Melghat were then due to
malnutrition, tetanus, pneumonia, ma-
laria and snake bites. But poverty was
the main underlying reason.
“Villagers died of pneumonia because
they didn’t have warm clothes for win-
ter. They succumbed to malnutrition as
once the farming season was over, there
was no work and hence no money to
buy food. This root cause was what we
wanted to ‘cure’,” shared Dr Kolhe.
With the successful track record of the
doctors in improving their health, the
tribal community felt the husband-and-
wife team had answers to curing their
cattle and improving farming prospects.
To help them, Dr Kolhe learnt how
to treat animals from a veterinarian
friend. And he also studied agriculture
at the Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi
Yet, upon having developed fungus-
proof seeds, the doctor found he had
no takers among the farmers. So the
couple started farming to prove the im-
portance of new farming techniques.
His sons join in
A big impetus came when the Kolhes’
older son, Rohit, 27, started farming
and holding awareness camps for the
The Kolhes have two sons.
The younger one, Ram, 24, is a third-
year medical student at the Govern-
ment Medical College in Akola.
He wants to become a surgeon and
follow his parents’ footsteps to help im-
prove the health and lives of the resi-
dents of Melghat.
Beyond medicare, the Kolhes have
introduced forest conservation meth-
ods and have been able to help farmers
predict drought and study the four-year
The Public Distribution System (a
government-sponsored chain of shops
entrusted with the work of distributing
basic food and non-food commodities
to the needy sections of society at cheap
prices), ensured there was enough food
This led to Melghat becoming Maha-
rashtra’s first suicide-free zone for farm-
Work in areas such as power genera-
tion, wages and women’s health and
education also continue.
As word spreads about the Kolhes
work, the state’s Minister of Public
Works Department (PWD) visited the
While he was impressed at Bai-
ragarh’s upliftment of the tribal com-
munity, he was appalled to see how the
He offered to build them a home.
Instead, Dr Smita asked for roads and
connectivity. The PWD has since pro-
vided surface connectivity to over 70
per cent of the villages in Melghat.
“Health infrastructure has increased
manifold, but power infrastructure is
yet to get a reboot. Despite having elec-
tricity in Bairagarh, there is power cut
for almost 14 hours daily. The voltage
is so low that the farmers are unable to
run their pumps.
“Communication is also a huge hurdle
to develop this place. If you are writing
about us, then please add that the need
for electricity in these villages for farm-
ing is as important as it is in metro cities
to run a mall,” said Dr Kolhe.
“I am lucky to have a wife and two
sons who accept the kind of lifestyle I
have chosen for all of us.
“Without their support, I couldn’t
have come this far. They have never
complained about being deprived of
the luxuries of a city life,” he affirmed.
Even after 37 years, Dr Kolhe’s one
rupee fee for his patients remain.
And his dream of a well-established
operation theatre has come true.
Recognition has come for his com-
mitment, but he says he accepts the
awards only because they make his fa-
“I have really done nothing for the
people of Melghat. I just tried to give
them what they should have got from
the state long, long back.
“Change is inevitable. But still there
is a long way to go in making the peo-
ple self-dependent,” concluded Dr Kol-
LEARNING BY GIVING THEIR TIME
AT DOCTOR’S VILLAGE: PAGE 14
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