Ground Zero: Sanjay Practitioner’s viral video highlights Bihar’s dependence on quacks

Sanjay ‘practitioner’ boldly tells he apprenticed with an allopathic doctor for some time and now practices in the village, he does not have any formal training or education

Ground Zero: Sanjay Practitioner’s viral video highlights Bihar’s dependence on quacks

Uttam Sengupta

He does not prefix ‘Dr’ before his name but he is an Allopathy Practitioner. A bare bodied Sanjay ‘practitioner’ boldly tells the interviewer that he apprenticed with an allopathic doctor for some time and now practices in the village. No, he does not have any formal training or education.

The stupefied interviewer asks what if his prescriptions don’t work and the patient’s condition deteriorates or if the patient dies. The allopathy practitioner does not even bat an eyelid. “That can happen with even doctors with an MBBS degree”. Irrefutable logic.

But surely what he is doing is illegal, the interviewer persists. Sanjay ‘practitioner’ agrees. Yes, it is illegal. What if the police come after him? For the first time the bare-bodied ‘doctor’ gets agitated. “How can they do that? I am here to attend to the villagers 24x7. I am there to administer injections…”.

The confidence with which he answers the questions is commendable. He even reels off five medicines, including Avil and Betsona, which he uses to counter reactions and side effects. Villagers in Bihar have depended upon these practitioners for decades in the absence of doctors, who prefer to live in cities or migrate out of the state. With just 2,850 government doctors for a population of 130 million people, there is no option but to rely on them.

There must be both honest and unscrupulous practitioners. Sanjay Paswan (?) appears to belong to the first category. There are also the second category of quacks. I remember a report we had carried in The Times of India from Arrah, where a fraudster was running a fake X-Ray clinic. He had put up an old, defective refrigerator inside which he had stocked old X-Ray plates. He would make the ‘patient’ sit opposite the refrigerator, switch off the lights, manipulate a lamp and Voila, the X-Ray was done. He would give them an old X-Ray plate of an unknown person and send him off after collecting his fees. Even in those days, Biharis like their counterparts in Bengal would travel to the Christian Medical College, Vellore for treatment. It was hassle free, methodical and they were not fleeced. It would often be cheaper as well. More importantly, people had faith in the doctors at CMC, one of whom once shared an amazing story.

A vegetable farmer from Bihar had taken his wife, a cancer patient, to CMC for treatment. She was in an advanced stage and the doctors gently told the man that it might be better to take her back and keep her as comfortable and happy as was possible during the rest of her life. The indignant farmer refused.

He had brought her all the way to CMC for treatment and how could he take her back without treatment? The doctors informed him that surgery would cost a lot of money and there would still be no guarantee that she would live. How much money would the operation cost, the farmer asked. When told, he declared that he had brought more than the amount in cash and would like to go ahead with the surgery.

Overwhelmed, the doctors told him that he should not spend his lifetime’s savings on a lost cause. Now the farmer was apparently indignant. “If necessary, I will get more money from home. And I will earn this amount back with my hard work. But how can I go back without ensuring treatment for my wife? With what face will I face my children?”

The doctor who narrated the story was still awe stuck, several years after the encounter. “We know Bihar as this poor, backward state. But when a farmer in the state is so confident, why is the state so poor,” he asked. Why indeed?

As Bihar votes, jobs, health and education seem to be taking centrestage for the first time. May the best man win.

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