New Delhi: In Season 8 of Banega Swasth India (BSI), the campaign aims to draw attention to the fact that as a country we are only as healthy as our most vulnerable population, says Ravi Bhatnagar, Director External Affairs & Partnerships, South Asia, Reckitt in a Facebook Live session. Dettol and NDTV have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014. This year, the campaign moves forward into its eighth year, with the agenda of One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
NDTV: Health of a country’s citizens has a lot to do with its progress. Do you agree?
Ravi Bhatnagar: Yes, it is very important. We are nearing the 75th year of India’s independence that has taught us many important lessons. One of the lessons is ‘We Can Do It’. When I say ‘We Can Do It’, we have shown it, we have proven it many times. Be it the case of smallpox or polio eradication, or India’s response to HIV and Tuberculosis (TB), or India’s response to wellness centres, or providing insurance to millions of people in India through the various schemes of the government- Ayushman Bharat. Now we are moving towards something very interesting and fascinating that is working on digital health records. These health records will help each one of us to be better, to be healthier and this is very vital for tracking from the public health point of view to know how India is performing on the key health indicators. So my journey has been really interesting from starting this campaign with NDTV where we worked with 2,500 schools in season 1, worked on behaviour change, the NDTV-Dettol bus reached some of the villages in India to now, reaching out to 20 million school kids across India, working on the adolescent health, working on the newer concepts like self-care, working with the government of Uttar Pradesh and other states on Dettol Hygiene Impact bond and encouraging the tech companies like WhiteHat Jr and others so that the children can come and do the coding on hygiene and sanitation and they are coming up with fascinating ideas.
NDTV: We are going to launch our new season on October 3rd with our campaign ambassador Amitabh Bachchan and will be focusing on the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’. We have learnt from Covid that we cannot leave anybody behind. We are also focusing on ‘One Health, One Planet, One Future’. What are your thoughts on that?
Ravi Bhatnagar: I will summarise this in one phrase, ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ which is the key. ‘Sabka vikas’ can happen only when India is healthy and India can be healthy only when no one is left behind because India has a huge indigenous population that is scattered in the states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This is the time, we do a wake-up call and we bring everyone together so that healthcare is not a privilege, healthcare is a right. We support the foundation of the aspirational districts; we support India’s growth story on health where we contribute significantly by reducing mortality and morbidity. We worked all together with the public-private-patient partnership and we worked on the concept of ‘One Health, One World, One Future’ where we are not just taking care of the human beings, we are also taking care of the plants, animals. We are taking a 360-degree approach through our campaign so that no one is left behind.
NDTV: We are talking about inclusivity, how do you think include people from marginalised communities- LGBTQ and bring them to the forefront?
Ravi Bhatnagar: India’s journey against article 377 for the LGTBQIA+ rights and entitlements has been very long. I must congratulate, the Ministry of Social Justice Government of India which has been proactively taking steps to ensure inclusion and inclusivity in all the programmes. As a company, we also believe that this must be done. In the last calculation of the populations through the census, that was the first time when the transgender population was also mapped. They have their own rights, their own issues, so how to deal with those issues, maybe their health issues, poverty issues, food security, entitlements, unemployment and others. So, we strive to work together and provide solutions to them which were never considered before in the census of India.
I have been meeting a lot of youngsters across India like Saddam from Manipur started his organisation called YA_ALL which is not only taking care of the mental health issues of the LGBTQIA+ communities and have been successful in putting together India’s first soccer team of the LGBTQIA+ population in Manipur. Kids from various Northeastern states have come together and are learning. YA_AL is also offering scholarships to the LGBTQIA+ population. There are other organisations also that are doing great work. Nevertheless, their efforts are huge and we all need to come together. In my career, I have seen the work done by Ashok Row Kavi, former head of the Humsafar Trust. I also extend my sincere gratitude towards J.V.R. Prasada Rao, National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) heads, I acknowledge the efforts of Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Manvendra Singh Gohil who are the very early champions of inclusion and diversity. These are people who worked a lot to revert and halt the HIV epidemic and helping reach the milestone which is 90-90-90 so that the maximum testing can happen, people can go out and get the benefits, entitlement. The journey is huge and Reckitt from its own side under the Dettol Bangea Swasth India Programme has invested in this issue and we are starting our first centre for transgender health in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh soon and that will with a big network of around 50,000 doctors which will be giving health benefits to over 4 lakh mapped transgender population in India. This is important because this is the key population that a huge number of health issues, psychological issues, wellbeing issues which needs to be taken care of and it is every individual’s responsibility to stand with them and reduce the gap them and us, it should we one world, one, future.
NDTV: What is the aim of the telethon and what is the campaign trying to achieve this season?
Ravi Bhatnagar: It has been a fascinating journey under the leadership of Dr Roy, our Global CEO Laxman Narasimhan and our South Asia Head Gaurav Jain. This year, the focus is quite huge. It is one health, one planet, one future. But you know, it is not limited to just this, the day of the telethon starts with 75 years of health, hygiene and nutrition in India, followed by something on which the United Nations is also working- Leaving No One Behind, self-care, India’s Covid response and taking care of three basic steps- handwashing, face masking and maintaining social distance along with the vaccination. The next topic that we will be discussing on telethon is India’s health, nutrition and hygiene story post-Covid. We are also trying to bring some of the people who have been at the forefront, helping people. We have a very beautiful campaign called Dettol salutes, sincere gratitude to everyone who participated in the campaign. We are talking about the common people in the campaign so that the whole concept of leaving no one behind can be realised. We will be also talking about science and hygiene. These are some of the important pillars which we will be talking about throughout the day.
NDTV: Please tell us about your work. You have been going on the bike, helping people, distributing essentials to the people in need.
Ravi Bhatnagar: A lot of work that I do at a personal level is the reflection of the organisation where I work and the purpose of the organisation keeps me driving, keeps me awake at night. I want to thank everyone, every well-wisher from Reckitt, in India, outside India. It was not even a single time that I asked for helped and didn’t receive it- maybe it was plasma donation or something else. We created a huge plasma donation network through Bikers For India. Now we are working with a huge number of orphans and vulnerable children who are impacted by Covid. From our earnings, what Reckitt pay us as salary, I make sure that some amount from that goes towards the things that really drive me and I personally think that I am blessed to be working with brands like Dettol, Durex and others. There is a huge legacy of these brands and when I see the journey of my leaders in the company, I personally think like if they can do it, I should also do something in my life which will have a positive impact on society. This is just a humble beginning, I believe there will be days on which I will be able to contribute on a much larger scale.
NDTV: How can we take mental health to the far-flung areas especially when we know that there is a dearth of mental health professionals in the country?
Ravi Bhatnagar: India does not have an adequate doctor to population ratio in terms of mental health. However, some large attempts were done by India where there was a concept of barefoot doctors or the last mile doctors so that this urban-rural divide of seeking mental support can be taken care of. There are the institutes of repute like NIMHANS, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and others and then there is a big network of civil society organisations working on mental health issues. I want to clarify something which people confuse a lot. There is a huge difference between mental health and mental illness. So all mental health issues are not mental illness issues. Therefore, it is important that we focus on some of our AYUSH healthcare systems where we talk about the ‘Siddha’, yoga, ‘pranayam’ which the rest of the world also acknowledges. There is a huge support network that is required if you have mental health issues. There needs to be a network of barefoot supporters, there need to be champions in the local communities so that there is a network that is available for the care and support.
You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.