A talk by eminent economist and renowned journalist Shri Swaminathan S.Anklesaria Aiyar was organized by Sankara Nethralaya on the 10th of March 2014 at the Sri VD.Swami Auditorium as part of its ongoing knowledge acquisition initiative for its members and well wishers through interaction with experts in various fields leading to a broader understanding of various subjects and issues. The credit for organizing the visit of the renowned Consultant to the World Bank, Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and acclaimed journalist whose immensely popular ‘Swaminomics’ captured the socio-political scenario of the country like nothing else goes to Shri Suresh Dalapathy, Secretary, the Ophthalmic Mission Trust, Inc, USA the fund raising arm of the Sankara Nethralaya in the USA. Shri Dalapathy who knows the eminent journalist well had implored him to grace Sankara Nethralaya and deliver a talk during his meeting with him in Dallas where he had come over for a guest lecture.
The distinguished speaker started his talk on a retrospective note that ‘Health’ has been the most neglected area and ‘health spending’ received the least allocation in the country’s 5 year plans and successive budgets since its independence. He rued that while the Father of the Nation was great champion of public health, his sentiments were neglected in favour of more populist measures which led to a high mortality and morbidity rate among the citizens of the country and added that the very fact that it took a full 50 years to eradicate Polio was a sad reflection of the neglect of the health sector. Shri Swaminathan S.Anklesaria Aiyar emphasized that even a small spending on preventive healthcare could keep most ailments at bay and would be both economically wise and prudent in terms of avoiding suffering and pain than spending huge sums on treatment. He drew a disturbing parallel between households and the government when it came to a strong reluctance to spending on preventive health care and punned that most of us spend ‘less on living and more on leaving’ which means that that people spend huge sums on terminally ill patients in their last days than in keeping themselves healthy during normal times. Shri Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar declared vehemently that in a large and highly populated country like India preventive healthcare measures should start with basics like providing clean, protected water, good sanitation which by itself would keep a host of illnesses away.
The star speaker answered a wide array of questions ranging from role of the government in healthcare, model of healthcare ideal for the country, research, decentralization etc from the distinguished audience comprising of Sankara Nethralaya personnel and well wishers and supporters, in his characteristically outspoken manner, upholding his own radical views on many issues of public interest. While welcoming the role of corporate houses in health care he underlined that ensuring the good health of the citizen was undoubtedly the prerogative of the State. He had a high word of praise for institutions like the Narayana Hridayalaya, Bhagawan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayatha Samiti and Sankara Nethralaya for providing world class coronary care, artificial limbs and world class ophthalmic care at a fraction of what it would cost in the advanced West.
The highly charged and interactive session concluded with a presentation of the Vision Research Foundation the research arm of Sankara Nethralaya’s pioneering role in finding solutions for Congenital cataract owing to galactose intolerance and a study of the impact of ‘Rubella vaccine’ by Dr K.N.Sulochana, Director, Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.