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"Health should be a justiciable right in India"

Aug 26, 2012

Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission of India, talks to OneWorld South Asia about many things that are close to her heart, and lays down some hard facts that portray an India that is in need of change.

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For Dr Syeda Hameed, being outspoken and championing for the rights of the underprivileged and minority is nothing new. Whether its Dalits or women in need, they all find a crusader for their cause in Hameed. She, herself is a highly accomplished women in her myriad successes and ideas: A Padma Shri, a prolific author and one of the few who has taken the state of health in India seriously. She is currently working hard at ensuring that health becomes a matter of right in India than just a privilege for few.

In many ways, keeping in mind India’s current state, a conversation with Hameed touched on many imperatives that India needs. The recent Guwahati incident reinforced the double standards of gender that India holds, and the ethnic clashes in Assam reflect how peace is sometimes just a mirage in many of India’s areas. Hameed talks about the decaying of the 'moral fibre of India' and how it's time matters should be set straight in India.

Inclusive growth has been bandied about India’s development debate a lot. For many, the gross inequality will remain a mar on the country’s shimmering GDP cover and many grapple with the glaring statistics. For Hameed, such issues burn down to simple things. For her, women need to be looked after the most, and represent the most under-privileged of the people. In her view, common perception of a ‘trickle-down’ effect makes things worse, as the ‘cliché’ of inclusive growth does not translate to reality leaving the inequality more glaring. The inequalities are piqued in the case of the unorganised sector who face a more complex sense of displacement. The recent Maruti case, though shocking in its violence highlighted the predicament of temporary labour. Hameed for her part has strong views on this:

On the issues of health and corruption: Logically, a lot of the insecurity stems from the fact that many things are beyond the ambit of a ‘right’. For instance, health itself is not a universal right in India yet, and Hameed thinks the gap between making a policy and its implementation should be bridged. A lot has to do with the eradication of corruption in many ways.

On the predicament of women in India: Hameed has often spoken about the plight of women in India, and a recent report that ranked India even below conservative states like Saudi Arabia lay down a paradoxical picture. As Hameed called it, what is needed in India is an egalitarian society that gets out of its trap of patriarchy. Her words echo a sentiment that is right now felt by many women of India and in need of many kinds of 'reconciliation'.

On conflict and reconciliation: Reconciliation itself, is a topic that Hameed has been close to. And for her it’s following in the great tradition of India’s leaders. Even though India, and for that matter South Asia faces a ‘conundrum of peace’ as she calls it, Hameed belives in her work as a reconciliatory, which has to be done in order for the ‘many fires to put out’.

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