Yesterday, one of our esteemed state health ministers hailed that cancer and accidental deaths are a form of ‘Divine Justice'. According to him the sins committed by a person or his forefathers in the past, lead to such sufferings. Another “scientifically backed” statement, we heard a few months ago was when a judge claimed that peacocks mated via tears.
These statements not only show lack of sensitivity and understanding towards the victims of such fateful events. Further, it showcases the frivolous attitude of the public figures towards vital health and social issues in the country.
If cancer and accidental deaths are indeed ‘divine justice’, then a person can go on smoking one cigarette after another. He can drink alcohol without any caution. He can refuse to follow traffic rules as long as he is sure that his forefathers have never committed a sin.
Let's have a look at some of the data:
- As per a report by the WHO, every year, one million people die in India from consumption of tobacco in one form or another. Smoking alone causes 30% of all cancer deaths.
- A Report on Road Accidents in India (2016), published by Transport Research wing under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, has revealed that 1.5 lakh people died in road mishaps in the year 2016.
But the gravity of the situation seems to be lost on the public and public figures alike.
The medical fraternity is always struggling with wrong, poor or too much information being circulated on websites and social media. Research institutes are spending crores of rupees to achieve breakthroughs in cancer-related research. Politics and science are two different fields. It is understandable that a health minister may not be a subject matter expert. However, nothing is stopping him from checking the facts with his team before he makes some public statements.
Be it health, research and development, education or textiles, an initiation program for the ministers may help them understand the problems of the department better. Better understanding and greater awareness of their portfolios will not only lead to good governance it will also save them from major embarrassments and public backlash.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.