Among the winners of Padma Awards 2019, are six doctors, who have been bestowed with the prestigious civilian honour for their exceptional contribution to the field of affordable healthcare and service to people in remote areas of India.
Ashok Laxmanrao Kukade
Dr Ashok Laxmanrao Kukade has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan for his lifelong service to the villagers of Latur, a drought-prone district in Maharashtra. In 1966, Dr Kukade started the Vivekanand Hospital in Latur along with four of his friends. Presently, the 120-bed hospital provides high-quality healthcare services to over 50,000 patients every year, at less than half the cost of any multispeciality hospital. Through his hospital, Dr Kukade has served thousands, especially during the severe droughts of 1970 and the 1993 Latur earthquake. The locals regard him as a true saviour.
“Our work has been adjudged and recognised by the people. Today, the government has recognised our work, through which we have served the people,” Dr Kukade shared with My Medical Mantra about his award.
Smita and Ravindra Kolhe
For the past three decades, this doctor couple has acted as lifesaving angels for the Korku tribals of Bairagad, a Naxal-affected region in Melghat, Maharashtra. They operate a clinic in the area, charging merely 1 or 2 rupees per patient. Their active intervention to uplift the farmers has helped transform Melghat into a complete farmer suicide-free zone.
Dr Smita and Dr Ravindra Kolhe have also electrified the village, built proper roads and set up as many as 12 Primary Healthcare Centres. The doctor duo has left their mark in agriculture as well by developing a fungus-resistant variety of foodgrain.
Since 1993, surgeon Dr Ilias Ali has been a sole crusader to combat Assam’s worrisome population explosion problem. He has traversed through the length and breadth of Assam – be it in the tea gardens or the riverine islands of Brahmaputra – spreading awareness about population control among the local underprivileged communities.
He heads the Population Foundation North East, which works among the poorest of the poor families, to educate them about family planning measures.
“I am happy the government has recognised this war, I have been fighting,” Dr Ali told The Indian Express about his Padmashri win.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
The 84-year-old veteran physician is everyone’s beloved ‘5-Rupees Doctor’. Even in 2019, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee treats patients at his quaint clinic in Ranchi, Jharkhand at just Rs. 5, an amount which has remained unchanged for the past 53 years. He also offers free treatment to patients from extremely low-income families. Dr Mukherjee often laments about the growing commercialisation of the healthcare industry.
About his Padmashri honours, he shared with Gulf News India, “I am feeling happy with the award but my purpose will be successful only when other doctors follow me and serve the poor.”
Dr Tsering Norboo has many feathers in his crown. A physician of international repute, with an impressive number of published research papers, Dr Norboo has dedicated his life and work to the inhabitants of Ladakh. After his formal retirement from Ladakh District Government Hospital in 2002, he established an integrated healthcare network for the remote, inaccessible areas in the mountainous terrains.
His organisation, Ladakh Institute of Prevention, selects volunteers from among doctors and paramedics who travel to altitudes as high as 4,900 metres, offering medical services to the aborigines. Dr Norboo is also accredited for starting the Ladakh Action on Smoking and Health.
R V Ramani
Dr Ramanathan V. Ramani or ‘Dr RVR’ as he is more popularly known, as the founder of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF).
In 1977, Ramani opened a small eye clinic along with his wife Dr Radha Ramani, charging only 50 paise per patient. Later in 1982, the small clinic led to the establishment of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) – a pioneer in eye surgery in India today. At present, 80% of their patients are rural poor who receive completely free treatment. The organisation performs more than 500 free eye surgeries per day.
Apart from these, eight other doctors have been awarded the Padmashri for their expertise in the medical field, as well as their brilliant research work aiming to eradicate different life-threatening diseases.
Jagat Ram (Director of PGIMER, Chandigarh), Mammen Chandy (Director at Tata Medical Centre, Kolkata), Shadab Mohammad (King George Medical University, Lucknow) and Sandeep Guleria (Indraprastha Apollo hospital and AIIMS, Delhi) include the dignitaries from elite medical institutes of India receiving the honour.
On the other hand, those being awarded for their work against a number of diseases include Omesh Kumar Bharti (rabies), Ramaswami Venkataswami (reconstruction surgery of burns), Sudam Kate (sickle cell anaemia), Pratap Singh Hardia (cataract and myopia).