Speaking in his "Mann Ki Baat" radio address to the nation the other day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises on Indian doctors for their contributions, and rightly so.
Modiji utilized the occasion of Doctors' Day to acknowledge the fact that "Doctors give us rebirth". The Prime Minister talked of the "Spirit of service" of doctors and their "Commitment towards society". Modiji said that doctors are our "Family friend and a lifestyle guide".
Modiji noted that Indian doctors have created a niche for themselves all over the world through their capabilities and skills, their expertise, their hard work and their ability to solve complex medical problems.
And, Modiji extended his "Warmest felicitation" to "All our doctors".
This sky high praise of Indian doctors by Prime Minister Modi has special significance, given the fact that quite recently, while addressing a gathering in London, Mr Modi had been highly critical of Indian doctors, almost saying that doctors advise patients to go in for unnecessary expensive stents. Modiji had then hinted at a nexus between doctors and pharma companies to the detriment of patients.
While there may well be bad sheep in the medical profession, there was a furore of protest against the Prime Minister's words and an agitated medical fraternity was up in arms saying that the entire lot of Indian doctors could not be painted with the same black brush.
The social media platforms went into overdrive with innumerable messages being shared in disagreement with what the Prime Minister had said in London. Many messages pointed out the fact that it is the government itself that determines the prices of medicines and devices, and not the doctors. There is nothing to stop the government from doing its job.
Even we came out in defence of the Indian doctors who had clearly been wronged.
Given the sheer scale of the anger and hurt in the medical fraternity over the Prime Minister's utterances, it was only expected that some amends would be made to placate the doctors' hurt feelings.
Now, one can not very well expect a Prime Minister to say sorry to the doctors or to eat his words. The next best course is to make amends by clarifying the position and acknowledging the true role of the Indian doctors in the country and worldwide. This is what the Prime Minister has done, without referring to his earlier words spoken in London.
One might have expected a clarification to have come to assuage the hurt feelings of the doctors much earlier. But, better late than never.
It would be in order to accept what the Prime Minister has said with the same grace as has been shown by Prime Minister Modi in addressing this matter in his Mann Ki Baat.
In a sense, this entire episode underscores the fact that even a Prime Minister is actually human, and thus fallible. However, by addressing the doctors as he has done in his Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Modi has shown that he has the courage to make amends, which makes him a creature of democracy and a Statesman at that.
While the Prime Minister could be faulted in painting the entire doctors' fraternity with the same brush, this can not wish away the fact that the fraternity does have issues that need to be addressed. Now that the Prime Minister has shown the grace to make amends, it is for the fraternity to address the issues that the Prime Minister had raised in London, even if one may disagree with the manner in which they were raised on foreign soil.
The doctor-pharma nexus, the cut from the diagnostic labs and other such practices are shameful in a country like India where millions of patients have to borrow money for treatment. The very high cost of treatment creates a barrier between the common man and his right to health care. The government does not seem to have the resources that can fund health care for all.
In this situation, it is the collective conscience of the healthcare fraternity that can deliver healthcare to the masses through a sense of service. Modiji can, at best, be a catalyst in that process.