The existing public health care system is not viewed favorably by its potential users in India. There are a number of reasons for that, quality and availability being the foremost. In both urban and rural areas, people prefer to pay and seek personalized services provided by private physicians, with a human touch, rather than use free treatment at public health centers. Simply because they lack faith in the system and the way it deals with them and if capable, would rather pay for availing health care.
This is where the R.M.P.'s step in. Registered Medical Practitioners outnumber certified medical doctors, especially in small towns and villages, where qualified doctors are loathe to set up practice. And it is easy to get registered. So easy in fact, that Uttam, who could barely read or write, got his registration and started his practice, with all of us, his friends, chipping in to get him started.
Uttam's house was on the same street as ours. His father had died while he was still a toddler and his mother had single-handedly raised him. But even she departed while he was entering his teens. Uttam had dropped out of primary school and had been through several odd jobs until he finally landed a job at a doctor's clinic and learned a few tricks of that trade.
To make a long story short, in a few years, Uttam managed to register himself as an R.M.P. and started his practice in a neighboring village. He would commute daily on his lucky bike, the same one which he rode for his baraat, but that is a tale for another day. He was very good at interpersonal skills and his practice grew quickly. He used to steer clear of trouble by dispensing innocuous medicines and referring complicated cases to qualified doctors, mostly using the placebo effect to cure his patients and build up his reputation.
But all good things come to an end. A couple of years later, he had an aged lady die in his clinic while waiting for her turn to be seen. And although it was not his fault, his dispensary was ransacked and his bike was mangled up and he himself was badly beaten up by the relatives.
This incident shook up Uttam so badly that his next couple of years were again spent doing odd jobs till he finally mustered up enough courage to set up shop once again, but in town this time and only specializing in skin related ailments. Because, he reasoned, no one dies of skin diseases.
He has done nicely ever since. He built a large house for his growing family and a few years back, his daughter graduated from dental college and is now a practicing dentist.
By the way Happy Diwali to one and all!