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GANDHI AND HEALTH

Celebrating sesquicentennial birthday of father of our nation.

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12 Oct '23
10 min read


GANDHI AND HEALTH: CELEBRATING 150 YEARS

‘Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as Gandhi ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth’ – Albert Einstein


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi, our beloved “Bapu”, the father of Indian nation (Rastrapita) was the harbinger of Indian Independence in British ruled India. He was the man of action, a change maker who transcended through the clutches of race, religion and nations and emerged as the man of the millennium. His ideologies marched to become the voice of the 21st century. While living, he played a hero and after death, continues to be an inspiration for present generation.


With 2nd October being celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti and International Day of Non-violence, celebrations are on to pay a tribute to the Gandhian way of living and revive his philosophies “Be the change you wish to see in this world” with which we Indians are brought up with. A personality with an incomparable charisma, wisdom, caliber and far ahead of his time teachings has become a yardstick around the world to understand India and its development.


Best known as the pioneer of India’s Independence through truth and non- violence, Gandhi was also a torch bearer in matters relating to health, fitness and sustainability.


When we strive towards 'Swachh Bharat’ or a clean hygienic India or When we talk of the health and well-being of the Indians, we remember Gandhiji. When we battle climate change and promote green, eco-friendly living, we invoke Gandhigiri.


Bringing Gandhi to Health and Medicine –
“It is not our patient who is dependent on us, but we who are dependent on
him. By serving him, we are not obliging him; rather, by giving us the privilege to serve him, he is obliging us”
(Quote by Gandhiji that is inscribed in the Outpatient Suite at AIIMS, New Delhi)


Over the last 150 years, India has achieved a lot in terms of health improvement. Despite India being an emerging Booming Economy, its Public Health System has failed to serve the poor. India has reached Mars; still our villages are chronically lacking the primary health facilities. India ranked 154 out of 195 countries in basic healthcare, way behind countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Ghana and Liberia.


A multifaceted visionary who had unshakeable faith in his mission believed that “It is Health that is the real Wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”. His book on “Keys to Health” is one of the most popular writings which highlight his ideas regarding importance of healthy living. He explained that everything in the world can be used and abused. It applies to our body too. We abuse it for our selfish purposes. He emphasized on simple practical laws of health that are required for a better health care system.
Gandhiji described “Health” as body ease, a body free from disease which can carry out its normal activities without fatigue. He explained that a man is not the owner of his body for self satisfaction rather a guardian taking good care of it. So, it’s necessary to have knowledge about one’s body, follow the laws of health and prevent illness which has been brought about by our own ignorance and carelessness.


Indians tasted freedom under the influence of Gandhiji but his dream of Clean India is still unfulfilled. He dreamt of an ideal casteless free Indian society connecting cleanliness, untouchability and health through Swaraj and Satyagraha. Even if we inculcate certain sanitary habits like hand washing, regular brushing of teeth and bathing from a younger age, we are not bothered about cleanliness of public places or institutions. So, Gandhi’s concern for public and private sanitation became an integral part of his mission.


“Sanitation is more important than Independence. I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” - Gandhiji
Sanitation has been rated as the greatest medical milestone of the last century and half according to a poll carried out by the British Medical Journal. Mahatma Gandhi had realized that the prevalent poor state of sanitation in villages, untidy sight of pilgrimage places, the unhygienic bathing and washing habits, drinking water from same stream and particularly the lack of adequate toilets in the then largely rural India are the main reasons of ill health.


By the time India became independent, morbidity and mortality from epidemics like plague had fallen sharply but diseases like fever and gastro-enteric infections still took a heavy toll. He correctly pointed out that the standards of sanitation in a society are closely inter-related to the levels of hygiene and public health. He himself took to scavenging to keep lavatories clean and firmly emphasized that “A lavatory must be as clean as a drawing room.”


Lack of sanitation which includes lack of hygiene and causing filth and pollution, has not only vital economic consequences but also serious social consequences. Educating villagers about hygiene, sanitation and healthy diet was the only real medical service which could be achieved by the Government and active public participation. In fact, the Right to Sanitation must become a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

 “A clean body cannot reside in an unclean city, Cleanliness is next to godliness”.


“Swaraj can only be had by clean, brave people. If you become your own scavengers, you will make the surrounding clean”, said Gandhi, The father of 'Swachhata Abhiyan', inciting two simultaneous movements- the struggle for independence and removing untouchability.
This concept was concretized when on 2 October, 2014, our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched a largest ever nationwide sanitation campaign, 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'- 'Clean India Mission' inspired by the Gandhian movement for sanitation which resolves to provide sanitary toilets and basic sanitation to all. The mantra of “NA GANDAGI KARENGE, NA KARNE DENGE” (neither litter nor let others litter) evoked a message of hope and massive change in the country’s outlook and citizen’s attitude. This laudable mission is inspired by patriotism and is beyond politics. It can only be achieved when 125 crore Indians come together and self realize the dream of Bapu for the protection of the environment, for our safety and for our healthy future.


Following Bapu’s footprints, the mission aims to cover the following major parameters of sanitation:
• Provide basic sanitation facilities to every Indian • To make India Open Defecation Free
• Toilets in every home and in public places like educational institutions, railway stations, bus stops, trains.
• Treatment of human wastes, wastewater and refuse, solid and liquid waste disposal systems
• Legal ban against throwing plastics, garbage into a stream
• Subsidy for construction of toilets
• Concept of bio-latrines by 2 October, 2019, marking the 150th birth anniversary of Bapu.


The “logo” of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan signifies the vision of a bespectacled man from Gujarat who wanted to see a Clean India. It contains the spectacles of Gandhi with the bridge of the spectacle in the national tricolour illustrating that the entire nation gets united to achieve the vision of Gandhi for a clean India.
Gandhiji’s mantra of simple living and high thinking had a greatest contribution to sustainable development. He believed that with simple living, the resources of the planet earth can sustain us comfortably. But, the major gains in human health over the last 150 years could be jeopardized because of global warming, urbanization, lack of awareness, overpopulation, unsustainable consumption and depletion of natural resources. Urgent action is the need of the hour to protect the planet and health of mankind.


Sustainable development is an overarching paradigm of the United Nations. A “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.” envisaging a future agenda that balances the four pillars i.e. social, economic, cultural and environmental objectives. The UN Sustainable Development framework consisting of 17 Goals and 169 interlinked Targets within these Goals are framed in an ambitious, pragmatic and concrete way to renew and integrate efforts to meet the national and global aspirations in a defined time frame by 2030. The vision involves social spheres like gender equality, education and health, economic issues like growth, infrastructure and sustainable consumption, environment through climate change and peaceful partnerships for sustainable development. Sustainable development was just an expansion of Gandhi's simple mantra "The earth has enough for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed.”


Gandhiji was a preacher of non-violence and believed Ahimsa is the true path to freedom and the best way to achieve life’s goals. He said Non-violence is healthy. Gandhi was seen as an epitome of good health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. His healthy lifestyle of going to bed early and waking up early was an indicator to have a productive day. Gandhi famously said “The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin, holding all the foods that the palate demands.” One must not live in order to eat and drink rather to make body a temple and use it for the service of mankind.


He believed in healthy balanced diet and stressed upon the importance of fasting which promotes discipline and has physical benefits like detoxifying, cleansing the stomach, coping with infections and relieving constipation. He himself fasted for 21 days to promote unity between the Hindus and Muslims. The importance of walk was relevant from his life which was reflected in The Dandi March when he embarked solo on 390 kilometer protest walk assisted by fellow followers.


Gandhiji preached complete abstinence from drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Bapu said “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” Directing your mind right with positive thoughts boosts good health, improves skill and improves work efficiency. Being optimistic in life and seeing positivity in everything should be the motto of living. He practiced meditation which generates positivity and reduce stress, anxiety and lowers blood pressure and maintains a healthy mental living.


Gandhi was a peace promoter and a truth preacher. He said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Forgiving others and being compassionate has personal benefits and reduces feelings of anger, depression, and fatigue. When we pursue a compassionate lifestyle, we become less judgmental and understand how others feel. For every 1 minute we are angry, we lose 60 seconds of happiness. Gandhi wisely said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”


Gandhi understood the significance of youth power in bringing about social change and he effectively utilized the huge reservoir of energy present in young people during the freedom movement. A temper of will, quality of
imagination, predominance of courage, appetite for adventure makes this huge cohort a vibrant, constructive force which can address global issues and create a more just, equitable and a peaceful world. The empowered youth from diverse backgrounds like food to fashion to finance are the forerunner of assessment, awareness, action and advocacy for development. They are the main stakeholders, policy makers, powerful resource in handling responsibilities, revolutionizing fellow men and a catalyst for change. “Youth form the vanguard of the nation, which when properly channelized shall be instrumental for the development of the country”.


“Ask not what your country can do for you — rather ask yourself what you can do for your country."
To connect cleanliness with the idea of freedom and people as the most visible element was the perfect solution. Gandhi’s thoughts and ideas have an impressive role in taking the human society forward towards the desired goal. The lifestyle and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi were so glorious that people around the globe paid respect to him. He inspired a million and became a legacy of greatness, idealness and nobility. Gandhian way seem to be the only solution to overcome the present crisis of the world.
Swachh, Shresht and Samrudh Bharat !!!!!

Category : Health and Wellness


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Written by A Doctor's Diary

A DOCTOR WHO WRITES HER HEART OUT WHILE NOT WRITING PRESCRIPTIONS