New Delhi: After a journey of over 100 kilometers by train, auto-rickshaw, boat and motorbike, 70-year-old Dr Arunoday Mondal reaches his clinic ‘Sujan Sundarban’ bringing affordable healthcare to remote islands. It takes Dr Mondal over five hours to reach his clinic in North 24 Parganas, a district in West Bengal. The key driver is to provide affordable medical facilities to people living below the poverty line. He takes this trip every weekend and treats 160 people, 80 per cent of whom are poor. He also arranges for medicines and conducts medical camps and blood donation drives.
In an interview with team Banega Swasth India, Dr Arunoday Mondal, Padma Shri Awardee said,
Our commitment is to provide free medicines at any cost to these patients. Initially, I purchased these medicines from the Community Development Medicinal Unit (CDMU) but recently, I have started purchasing medicines from Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra, where I get quality products at cheap rates.
As his patients liken him to God, Dr Mondal says what alarms him is the number of patients with hypertension and diabetes among rural folk, resulting in more serious illnesses and strokes.
Basanti Majhi, one of patients of Dr Mondal lauded the health service he offers and said,
If we have to travel anywhere, it costs between Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 along with the doctor’s fee. But here, in just Rs. 100, we not only get good service but also free medicines.
Born and raised in the rural Sundarbans, Dr Mondal simply wishes to give back to his community and Sujan Sundarban is a way to accomplish that. He explained,
The government health facilities have still not reached the people of this area (Sundarbans). I am committed to providing scientific medical treatment to the downtrodden people of this area as far as possible.
What is required for the well-being of the people in Sundarbans are outdoor clinics on these islands, to treat them for common health issues, suggested Dr Mondal. He said,
I think a charitable or medical unit consisting of a doctor, nursing staff, and a health worker and two to three assistants along with quality medicines need to be set up at every island. The medical unit can move from one area to another, at regular intervals, providing people of the periphery access to healthcare services and treatment.
Dr Mondal has been offering free healthcare services, to the people of Sundarbans, for over two decades now. In 2000, from his ancestral house at Charal Khali, presently known as Chandanpur, Dr Mondal began providing free medical treatment with all sorts of medicines, along with awareness programmes at regular intervals. Later, he purchased a piece of land and constructed a two-storied building and initiated his dream project ‘Sujan’ on August 27, 2006.
Dr Mondal also organises regular blood donation camps, cancer detection and prevention camps, diabetic and hypertensive check-up camps, gynaecological check-up camps and regular immunisation. For his relentless service and dedication to the people of Sundarbans, Dr Mondal, who is also known as ‘Sundarban er Sujan’, was awarded Padma Shri in 2020.
President Kovind presents Padma Shri to Dr Arunoday Mondal for Medicine. He is known for his medical service to the downtrodden people of Sundarbans, West Bengal. pic.twitter.com/XyaMffHCIO
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) November 8, 2021
Sundarbans is a geographically vulnerable place as it experiences natural calamities on a regular basis and this vulnerability of the delta often works against it and affects people’s access to healthcare services. When high tides, storms and cyclones take away lives and livelihoods, seeking healthcare takes a backseat. In such a scenario, Dr Mondal’s selfless service comes as a ray of hope for the people of Sundarbans, ensuring health for all.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the 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, which 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.