Monday, August 22, 2016

Socially-committed Gujarat doctor's abduction: Medical community, NGOs suspect vested interests played a role

The car from which Dr Rajesh Mehta was abducted
By Sridhar Srikantiah
In what is being interpreted as the clear indication of deteriorating law and order situation in Gujuarat, an outstanding doctor, teacher and deeply-committed social worker, Prof (Dr) Rajesh Mehta was abducted in broad daylight from his car between Patan and Deesa in North Gujarat on Friday, August 19, 2016.
There is no trace of him, more than 48 hours after his abduction, despite claims of efforts by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police to locate him.
Dr Mehta, 56, is currently head of the department of preventive and social medicine at Patan Medical College, which is run by Gujarat Medical Education and Research Society. On the August 19, he left Patan Medical College in his car, driving towards Deesa to deliver a lecture on holistic health, but never reached Deesa.
About 12 km before Deesa, 4-5 persons are said to have overtaken him in another car, forced him to stop and took him away in their car. The police was alerted by wayside villagers, who observed the abduction and the case is being investigated since then.
However, no contact has yet been established with him or his abductors.
The view has gone strong in the medical community his abduction is in retaliation by powerful forces, as Dr Mehta stood his ground against rampant corruption and wrongdoing in the medical college are a frightening commentary on the reducing space for law abiding citizens in the state.
His abduction and the failure to quickly identify the perpetrators of the crime has shocked and shaken the medical community.
Known to be upright, honest and dedicated doctor Dr Mehta is said to have made substantial contributions to improving the health of the poor of Gujarat, in a career in public service that began in 1979 when he was himself a medical student in the Medical College in Vadodara.
An out-of-the-box thinker and innovator, his passion is to combine the best that different traditional and modern systems of health, medicine and nutrition can offer, and create public awareness for healthy living and low-cost self-care initiatives.
The very low cost anemia posters, that he has invented, which enable users to estimate the extent of their own anemia and to educate communities about anemia, are widely used by NGOs and government programs across the country.
He has also invented a device to objectively identify night-blindness, a common symptom of vitamin A deficiency – and he has used the device to screen and treat hundreds of bus drivers of Ahmedabad city, potentially preventing many road accidents.
He and his small organization have painstakingly developed a multilingual nutrition software for lay persons, which uses complex information on nutritive values of Indian foods to create an intuitive menu of options that help analyze individual diets and menus and nutrition surveys.
The Trust is considered a repository of huge collections of print and electronic health education material, and uses these in health exhibitions and campaigns in urban and rural Gujarat.
Besides direct contributions to community health, he has mentored hundreds of medical students in several medical colleges and trained thousands of rural and urban health workers in a selfless teaching career spanning five medical colleges and numerous NGOs across the state.
He has influenced large numbers of medical students to consider non-exploitative, natural and low cost approaches to patient care in an era of relentless commercialization of medical practice.

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