It is my proud privilege to be able to stand here as the president of ARSI and address you all.I am now standing on the shoulder of a giant. The wonderful giant made by your efforts and that of my predecessors, namely Dr. Balu Shankaran, Dr. N.H. Antia, Dr. Ravi Tongaonkar,Dr. Sitanath De, and Dr. R.D. Prabhu.
I admit that starting as a founder member and wading through thirteen years of active work in
the organization I have learnt many things, which surpasses my combined learning and training
of India and the UK in the profession of surgery. I have learnt the importance of value education
in our profession to make it an effective tool of service to humanity. I have learnt from you dear
rural surgeons, the meaning of the word "self respect". Holding conferences in small towns and
interacting with our colleagues, seeing them serving the poor and the downtrodden within limited
resources and against many odds, innovating appropriate procedures against the dictates of the
greedy industry-You have established new standards of human care. Your respectability lies in
serving humanity as your God as against the mammon of self-aggrandizement and a slave of
the healthcare industry.
Four hundred million of the total 1.2billion of India's population and five billion of the six billion
world population today have no access to modern western type surgical care. You are bending
down to cover this shameful gap in the 21st century. Many of you could have become corporate
hospital high-tech surgeons or big professors in our universities or NRIs minting money and
donating snobbishly in some charitable institutions. But instead you choose to become rural
surgeons. This shows your strength of mind and character where you use technology as a slave
for human service and not become a slave to technology itself. You have cut across the ahankar
'I' inside you and converted it into the holy cross of Christianity. Not 'I' but thou my patient.
Prabhuji's logo of the rural surgeon depicts this sentiment beautifully.
And let me tell you, your spirit of service is a great intoxicant. You see our foreign friends forming
similar associations in their own countries with the same feelings spending their moneys,
traveling, coming to our conferences to network with us and supporting such moves in other
developing countries. The only Indian Rotary international President, Nitish Laharry gave the
slogan "kindle the light within" during his president ship. You are doing the same through your
action, with your lives. The IFRS has been born with its first conference last year.
In the third national conference, we have even been blessed by the WHO. Two regional directors,
Dr. Uton Rafei and Dr. Gezairy, himself a surgeon, graced the conference. Dr. Gezairy, as our
keynote addressee, mentioned that the rural surgeons experience must be documented and
networked with to improve the quality of care in rural areas and developing communities. And
this we did and according to his advice, designed and started the CRS course from IGNOU.
All spiritual leaders across the world have preached the practice of Nishkam Karma to enable
man to realize his divine self. You are doing this Nishkam Karma in practice. And I bow down
to you my dear friends as your president and humbly take this lesson from you.
Swami Vivekananda said "Civilisation is the manifestation of divinity in man". The world put him
on a pedestal as it accepted what he said as truth. If that be so, it becomes our duty, as civilizedhuman beings, to serve our brethren with whatever tools we have acquired through our education
be it surgery, medicine or whatever. And what Vivekananda said was nothing new. Human society
is ten thousand years old and ever changing. In this changing society, certain eternal values of
human behavior have stood the test of time. And practice of these values in real life forms the basis
of civilization. Practice of these values is the path of man's evolution towards his ultimate goal of
life that is the realization of the divinity within, God realisation. The rural surgeons of my country
and the concept of rural surgery have led me on this path holding me by the hand.
And now as I stand before you as your president, on the shoulder of the giant, I visualize further
the path of salvation. I can see that salvation for ARSI and the true rural surgeon will not be
there until every man in our country has access to basic limb saving and life saving surgical
care. It is not that I am great and need all the attention and limelight because I am a rural
surgeon; it is the spirit of service that has awakened in me the sense of responsibility of carrying
the benefit of basic healthcare to the last person not only of my country, but of the entire world.
Against all odds, be it political or economic or technological. How do we achieve this. Is it at
all possible. A million dollar question.
I would not like to ask these questions. We did not ask any questions when we formed this
association. We did not ask any questions when went to the IGNOU to start the CRS course or
the NBE for the DNB course. We did not ask this question when we formed the IFRS. Then why
should we ask this question now. I would rather pledge my life and the life of the present day
rural surgeons towards achieving this target. Whether we achieve this, is for the future to say.
We should rather plan out a strategy to go ahead with this aim in mind and let the future take
care of the results.
In the Katha Upanishad, Nachiketa, a young boy of 8 sees his father donating barren cows in
a yagya to the Brahmins. This corruption led him embrace renunciation. He performs penances
to reach Yama the Lord of Death. Being pleased with his penances, Yama offers him three
boons. The first two boons he asked and Yama gave. In the third boon, he asks Yama for the
knowledge of Brahman (God). Yama tries to dissuade him showing him all the other pleasures
of life he can ask for. But Nachiketa sticks to his asking and does not budge. Yama becomes
pleased and finally gives him the knowledge. In the process, he recites a shloka
Uttisthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata;
Ksurasya dhara nisita duratyaya
durgam pathastat kavayo vadanti - (XIII.14)
The meaning is "arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. Although the path of realizing
this goal is like walking a long distance on a razor's edge in the middle of the night. That is
what those sages say".
The poor state of the present day healthcare system in our country created by our intellectual
leaders, wading through ten five year plans, the misdistribution of services, the corruption in the
systems and the selfishness of approach of those who are in power, have led us rural surgeons
into becoming Nachiketas of the present day. While 80% of our hospital beds are in large cities,
80% of our populations live in rural areas and in peri-urban slums. Increasing privatization,structural adjustments", cultural slavery and multinational dominated policies leading to
increasing marginalisation of the poor, has polluted the healthcare scene.
Our Association will continue to work against all these evils in silence. The National Rural
Health Mission has come as a beam in our eyes. The DNB in rural surgery is the first step. Our
grateful thanks to Prof. Shyamprasad in this regard. We have to support this with all our might.
And take it further down the line in creating more rural surgeons for the nation - those who can
create and manage small rural hospitals on their own or work devotedly in an already rural
setup with devotion. The making of the rural surgeon of tomorrow is now within our reach. Let
us now do it with love and care. And towards this end let us frame a set of guidelines for our
association members to follow. We have to assure that we are the right examples for them to
follow. I venture to say therefore, that the aim of our association in future should be to choose
members not only with the right qualifications but also with the right attitudes as well. Let me
assure you that a large number of members will not add any extra glory to our association. It
is their activity and interaction with the society, which will add glory. It is their contribution to the
well being of the impoverished population of our country which will add glory to our
For all this we will have to struggle; both externally and internally. Externally, issues like the blood
bank (UDBT), nursing care, anaesthesia and nursing home registering legislations etc…and
most important of all, training up the future rural surgeon from the younger generation of our
colleagues. And internally, getting over our pride, our "ahankar". This is what creates friction and
breakdown of any organized movement in society. Many good reforming movements have
broken down in the past across the world because of individual ego. Let that not happen to us.
Let us be focused on achieving the objective of making basic and essential healthcare facilities
available to every individual of our country. Let us stimulate that sense of judgment within each
one of us, which will erase our individual egos and make us work united in achieving the
objective already mentioned. And thus, reach the salvation of our association.
I again repeat, Uttisthata, Jagrata, Prapyavaran Nibodhata, arise awake and stop not till the goal
Dr. J.K. Banerjee,