B S Raghavan

Assign a year-long mission to each R-Day

B. S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 09, 2018

One can be pretty sure that the mode of observance of the Republic Day today will be no different from what it has been all these years.

There will be glitzy functions at thousands of places all over the country, with the nation's capital setting the pace, marked by eye-catching parades and stentorian exhortations by dignitaries from the President downwards.

It is almost certain that Gandhiji, who wanted the sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Governors' cavernous mansions, devouring thousands of acres of prime estate, to be converted into hospitals and schools, with the occupants shifting to modest habitations, would strongly disapprove of the enormously expensive pomp and show which only help persons in high pedestals of power and authority to indulge their vainglorious propensities.

One of the founding fathers, C. Subramaniam, used to speak and write, for as long as he lived, against continuing a practice that did nothing but mock at the poor, the deprived and the downtrodden.

Instead, each Republic Day should be assigned a mission that will conduce to the larger public good, and the governments at the States and the Centre, the non-governmental organisations and the people at large asked to devote themselves to producing concrete results by the next Republic Day.

When I was thinking about what this year's theme could be, the choice was made easy for me by my coming across an unusual person with the name of Republica.

I have heard of many who had been named after leaders such as Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru, but never one named after the Republic itself!

Vital mission

Dr Republica Sridhar is the daughter of R. M. Dave who came to Chennai from Vadodara and settled down in the city, and was close to leaders in the freedom struggle. The respect in which he was held and his services to society earned him recognition as the Sheriff of Madras in 1962-63.

By naming his daughter as he did, he sought to imbue her with not only a pride in being an Indian, but the social commitment that went with it, especially in the form of organising palliative care and looking after the terminally ill.

Other than R. M. Dave's Trust, about 20 groups of dedicated professionals are similarly engaged in this vital mission in Chennai alone, providing pain relief and palliative and terminal care to patients and their families through medical and para-medical volunteers, out/in patient consultations, home visits, and support and counselling for families in times of grief and bereavement.

Reaching out to needy

The NGOs, although financially strapped, are reaching out to the needy, offering their services free or at nominal cost. They can make a far greater impact if they join hands and pool their facilities.

For all its critical importance, this field of service is still in its infancy in India, with many of the clinics making-do with scant resources and rudimentary infrastructure.

There are, of course, some shining examples of private-public partnership, the most noteworthy being the lead taken by Dr S. M. Chandramohan of the Government General Hospital, Chennai, to have the designated personnel of the Hospital trained by the Lakshmi Pain and Palliative Care Charitable Trust.

This laudable effort, which seems to have run aground due to the expiry of the MOU, needs to be revived and extended in scope by inducting more NGOs as partners.

In Kerala, the Pain and Palliative Care Society set up at the Institute of Palliative Medicine in the grounds of the Government Medical College at Kozhikode is also doing excellent work.

But, all this is a tiny drop in the ocean, considering that the number needing such care, especially among the poor, exceeds a crore in India. And the rapid increase in the aging, and those with chronic ailments, is going to pose the biggest challenge in the social welfare sector in the coming years.

As such, it deserves to be designated as the theme for this year's Republic Day.

Published on January 25, 2011

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