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Times of India
22 July 2010
Gandhinagar, India

Gujarat Govt To Appoint Barefoot Docs
It’s not China’s special economic zones that chief minister Narendra Modi wants to replicate in Gujarat. The state government has taken a leaf out of the Chinese cultural revolution of late 1960s, when Mao Zedong formally attacked “western trained” medical system and floated the concept of ‘barefoot doctors’.

The health ministry has decided to compensate for sharp shortage of allopathic doctors in the state by making large–scale appointment of barefoot doctors, even as making massive investments in the ayurvedic and homeopathic sectors.

Soon after the weekly Cabinet meeting, government spokesperson Jay Narayan Vyas said, “We have identified 102 urban health centres, each catering to a population of 50,000, where barefoot doctors will work”. Incidentally, China abolished barefoot doctors system in 1981 after the Maoist phase ended.

To be called ‘Usha workers’, Gujarat’s barefoot doctors will undergo a short training course in providing basic health facilities, to be given in government health centres. “To be mainly women, there will be one barefoot doctor for every 2,000 population living in slum areas,” Vyas said, adding, “The model will closely follow appointment of 27,000 community health workers currently working in rural areas, one for every 1,000 population.”

Mao had sharply criticised the “urban bias” of medical system, changing China’s health policy in 1968 and integrated the barefoot doctors programme into national policy. It is still not known who will train Gujarat’s barefoot doctors, whose outlines have been worked out by state health commissioner VL Joshi.

Vyas, who is also health minister, admitted Gujarat would face severe shortage of doctors even as it takes up a huge healthcare check–up of 1.34 crore children in the age group 0–14.

In order to promote local medical system, the government allocated Rs 304 crore for promoting Ayurveda. An ayurvedic medical college and hospital and a training centre will start next to Gandhinagar at Kolavda village with an investment of Rs 152 crore. The Maniben Ayurvedic Hospital in Ahmedabad will get an aid of Rs 8 crore. New ayurvedic hospitals will be set up for Rs 26 crore, even as upgrading present ones for Rs 16 crore. Ayurvedic pharmacy will get Rs 3 crore grant.

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