“Wherever the art of medicine is loved,
there is also a love of humanity”
In contemporary regime, universal health coverage is the new usual. Still billion of people remains untouched from the following ambience. Free from any ambiguity, specifically in context of India, World Health Organisation (WHO)’s World Medicine Report of 2004 states 649 million Indians did not have access to essential and generic medicines. Considerable amount of people die due to lack of medicines every year. In spite of multifarious scheme and policies, governed and advocated by various countries, inter-governmental organisations, philanthropic institutions and persons, NGOs, no significant recuperation is witnessed. Negating all odds, Medicine Baba aka Mr Omkar Nath Mishra is the first pedestrian dispensary who collects medicine from door-to-door with decent aim of serving downtroddens.
Medicine Baba was born in 1940s and hails from Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Aged 80 and occupationally an ex-blood bank technician from Kailash Hospital, Noida is self-appointed Robin hood of healthcare voluntarily collecting and distributing medicines for poor. Being paraplegic due to precarious accident at mere age of 12, he faces struggle in walking. He lives with his wife and 50-year old mentally challenged son in slum areas of Mangalpur in dingy rented room. Thrashing all odds inclusive of his disability he walks around 5-6 km per day avoiding metro due to his financial weakness intended at collecting unused medicine for the welfare of society.
The brand new idea of establishing a walking Medicine Bank came in intellect of Mr Nath when a bridge collapse in East Delhi in 2008 claiming lives of two labourers and simultaneously injuring 16 others was observed by him. Local hospital curated them by basic first-aid neglecting vital treatments, consequently the injured returned home and died. The very episode shattered and shook Mr Nath and he became determined to not let something like this happen again. Globally human beings face perpetual demise due to both chronic and acute shortage of medicines. Even rudimentary medicines like painkillers, antibiotics are far from reach of impoverished. His core doctrine states that “Medicines are not manufactured to be dumped in garbage, they are essential life saving drugs. When a person waste medicine, a life gets wasted”. Evidently there is no robust mechanism dealing with wastage of medicine whereas his idiosyncrasy paves the way for the same.
Wearing an embellishing kesari (saffron) kurta on which name of his Medicine Bank ‘Rahat hi Rahat’ is printed along with his two contact numbers, strolls in city for discarded medicines. His simplicity is compounded by the fact that Mr Nath doesn’t make any self-proclamation about himself or his doings which corroborates and are testimonial to a quite determination of someone facing sizeable challenges themselves to try and help other. Mr Nath begins his day at 6:00 a.m. where he travels in buses on his senior citizen pass to wealthier corners of cities. Collecting medicines for many years he had entrenched consolidated pool of regular contributors. He estimates he walks about 3 miles a day collecting overarching medicines ranging from painkillers, multivitamins, antibiotics and paracetamols. On monthly basis he picks up medicine worth Rs 2,00,000 ($3680). According to Mr Nath best places are the middle-class and lower-middle class neighbourhood’s as they know how much our medicinal system is financially draining. Omkar also explains the phenomenon that he rarely receives donations from posh and welfare areas as they see him substandard and do not cooperate. But sometime paradoxically he too get expensive medicine for serious illness like cancer.
Commencing of his Medicine Bank was not so and uncomplicated. He was repelled and faced sundry obstacles from both families and friends. When he first announced his plans to the family, they all were pretty unhappy and were of the view that he is shaming the family by awful act of begging. Initially it was arduous for him to convince people of his welfare dwelled ambition and parting with their unused medicine. People often got suspicious about him and also made perspective of him being running a drug racket. On the other hand despite having an experience of 27 years of technician in a hospital, he didn’t possessed idea of stocking medicine and imperatively it was matter of people lives. Sagaciously he tied with nearby clinics viz. Dr SL Jain’s in Rajinder Nagar and Dr Naseem Meraz’s at Matia Mahel. They comprehensively inspected his collection with details of compositions, manufacturing, expiry date and requisite dosage. Pre-eminent virtue of Mr Nath is he does not sell the medicine but give them free of cost through intermediaries like NGOs, clinics and Government Hospitals. Acknowledging his realm of distribution, he embraced himself with immense euphoria as doctors work with him treat like just as an other medicine distributer and not as an angel.
Consistently working for weeks without any cessations he reserves weekends for record keeping. His recording apparatus is unorthodox and veracious. Everything gets written down in his binder—name of the drug, manufacturing, where he collected and expiry date. With evaluating anything that is open to air gets discarded by him immediately as welfare is the only orientation of his Bank. Clinics working in collaboration with Medicine Baba appreciate him about management, collection and documentation.
Distribution of his medicine is too eclectic where he distributes medicine to government and charitable organisation, from which large portion of goes to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, a government run charitable hospital in Central Delhi. Exorbitant medicines are granted to bigger hospitals and concurrently distributing directly to the needy. The Samaritan walked great miles to help everyone in need and also been helping people with disabilities to get tricycles.
Many people are still unaware of this praiseworthy and unsung hero. However he never urged for stardom or notability but righteousness and goodness makes their own way. As per its consequences his fame around Delhi has grown and television channels recognised him. Famous Bollywood personality Mr Sunny Deol felicitate him. In 2016 Delhi Gaurav Award was presented to him by Dr Harshvardhan (Union Cabinet Minister, Government of India). Punjab Governor and member of parliament Navjot Singh Siddhu praised him. In 2017 he was rewarded by Shoorveer Award in Mumbai. He was also felicitated from numerous renowned personalities like Mr Prakash Raj (Film Industry), Akhil Kumar (boxer), Dr Shubhas Chandra (Chairman of ESSEL group) and Mr Jarnail Singh (Politician).
Health experts across globe are continuously warning organisations and countries about repercussions of medicine wastage. Exacerbating the above phenomenon, extreme price are shooting up. Hence putting a system where unused medicine can be collected for benefit of others is need of the hour. Following same suit Medicine Baba has created exemplary specimen and well-differentiated model for every stakeholder related to universal medicine access. He also wants government to take proper action and often deliberate that government hospital should have an emergency section as no medicine shops are open after 10 p.m. which leads to difficulties.
Indian population of the range 30-35% currently are in the phase of acute shortage of medicine. Initiatives such as of Medicine Banks needs additional proliferation to cover huge demography of India. Diversely, unsung heroes like Medicine Baba remains anonymous despite of there various manoeuvres and needs due recognition for financial support as benefit of these sort of ideas have all-embracing effect on diminishing and halting the problem of medicinal excess. This will augment country’s effort in achieving Sustainable Goal (SDG3- Good Health and Well Being) by 2030 simultaneously promoting mankind and social welfare.
By Simran Bhati, Indore