by Kriti Gupta

Dipu is a 1-year-old boy who lives in Katputli Nagar, Jaipur. He is underweight and has not yet received his vaccination shots. His father works full day at the factory and earns rupees 50 a day. His mother takes care of him and his 4 siblings. Sasuri, his grandmother is suffering from a disease that does not allow her to leave her bed. They do not have enough money to take her to a doctor and get a diagnosis on her ailment. His aunt (father’s sister) is a 28-year-old woman who has not yet hit puberty and still lives with them.

These are the problems faced by one single family in this Kachhi basti. This is an example of the lack of health care that is available for the poor. On the one hand, India races on with a 9% GDP growth. On the other hand, a study conducted by Oxford University shows that almost 70 percent of the population cannot afford specialized health care.

According to WHO statistics, half of the children in the country are underweight, while we have the second largest rate of maternal mortality in the world. India has one of the largest populations of people affected with TB, Polio, Cholera and HIV/AIDS. The reason behind this is the vicious circle of poverty-illiteracy-overpopulation.

It is important to empower the poor by providing them with proper medical care. In Jaipur, there are various initiatives taken by the government and hospitals that attempt to do the same.


The word Anganwadi translates into “courtyard shelter”. This is a government scheme that attempts to provide mother-child care.

The idea stems from the notion that the poor cannot travel to a hospital to seek treatment. So the health care is provided in the courtyard. The government takes houses on rent in the village or urban slum. In these locations, an Anganwadi worker informs people about healthy ways of living. The Anganwadi worker is responsible for organizing day care and providing informal, pre-school education.

Dr. Alok Upadhyaya is a pediatrician who visits the camp at Jhalana Doongri, a kachhi basti, in Jaipur once a week to provide basic health care for children. He describes the situation at the basti, “The basic problem here is that people are ignorant. Mothers do not understand the importance of proper nutrition. But once we tell them, things tend to improve.”

Sitting in a single room with the sun as the only source of light, Dr Upadhyaya treats close to 40 patients a day. A nurse carries medicines and vaccinations. These are administered to children free of cost. Dr Upadhyaya continues, “It is a sad state of affairs. But initiatives like the Anganwadi offer a space where mothers can learn about health and children are given space to learn and grow.”

In Jaipur, the SMS Hospital is in charge of 25 camps while the SDM Hospital has adopted 15 sites as part of its outreach program. These are institutes with world-class facilities that are attempting to provide equitable health care to the poor.

This is a care home that gives health care to terminally ill patients free of cost. It is generally inhabited by people who have cancer, leukemia or other incurable diseases. Since it is free of cost, most of the patients living in the hospice come from poor families.

Situated next to the Birla Temple in the heart of Jaipur, this Hospice focuses on palliation. Palliative care is the care given to reduce severity of diseases rather than attempt to halt or cure them. Since the patients are terminally ill, this is the best that can be done to ease their pain. The hospice has 100 beds. Additionally, regular health check ups are organized at Avedna Ashram for senior citizens. These are also conducted free of cost. The care home has wards for patients along with rooms for entertainment – to watch television, play chess, listen to the radio and so on.

The main nurse at the hospice is Sister Mary. She is affectionately called Mary Aunty by the staff. Mary Aunty takes care of the patients – giving them medicines, ensuring that diet is followed and so on. She talks about her work, “The patients may be severely unwell, but their spirit is strong. And despite the inevitable, I find strength and comfort here.”

It is a quiet and serene place; but also filled with sadness because the patients at Avedna Ashram do not live beyond a few months. It is a great initiative because it provides a space to live one’s last moments in peace. And that right belongs to everyone!

Dharamshala at SDM Hospital
Another problem that the poor face arises when the recovery period is long. If the patient needs to be in the hospital, then that is an expense. Additionally, the person accompanying the patient will also have to stay somewhere and that is an extra expense. This gets too much for a lot of people and so they refuse to get health care.

The SDM Hospital identified this problem and has built a Dharamshala within its grounds to provide for a solution. The rooms at the Dharamshala can be rented at the nominal rate of Rs 50 per night. Proximity to the hospital helps. The relatives can stay there for the night and get back to tending to the patient first thing in the morning.

Col. Badal Varma, Head of Administration, describes its purpose, “We follow our philosophy of “giving”. So it is important for us to help the poor. We want to provide everyone with equal opportunities to avail of proper health and medicinal facilities.”

The Dharamshala is a project undertaken by SDM Hospital to achieve just that. Rana Singh, a driver by profession, a resident of the Dharamshala wonders if his chacha could have gone to a hospital if it cost more, “Chachaji lost both his legs in a train accident. This trip has cost my family a lot. If I had to pay standard rates for a separate place, we may not have been able to afford it.”

The Dharamshala, therefore, is a step towards empowering the poor. It allows the poor to get good quality health care by making it more affordable.
Such initiatives are remarkable as they provide equitable health care to the poor. In a country where 700 million people cannot afford specialized health care, it is heartening to see the government and hospitals involved with these causes.

The hope is that in the future, Dipu and his family will be able to get involved with such schemes and live healthy, happy lives.