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Doctor on a mission

Author: Maulshree Seth
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 1, 2012
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/snapshots-of-change/894273/0

In eastern UP, a doctor spreads awareness on how to control encephalitis. Villagers join his campaign

In pockets of eastern Uttar Pradesh, he is known simply as the “encephalitis doctor”. Dr RN Singh, a private practitioner in encephalitis-affected eastern Uttar Pradesh, has worked hard to earn that name. Singh adopted Holiya village in Kushinagar district to showcase it as a model village and controlled the disease through simple and low cost methods like disinfecting drinking water through sun rays, vaccination, fogging and spreading awareness about early symptoms of encephalitis and the significance of hygiene. “The journey so far has not been easy but I have enjoyed it,” says 64-year-old Singh.

It was the death of one of his patients in April 2005 that changed the way Singh looked at encephalitis. Over the last few years, he’s worked relentlessly to spread awareness on a disease that last year alone claimed 630 lives in UP.

Son of a lawyer, Singh belongs to Samardhira village of Mahrajganj, one of the encephalitis affected districts in eastern UP. He came to Gorakhpur when he was in class VI, and went on to pursue his MBBS at LLRM Medical college in Meerut in 1973. He worked in the pediatrics department of BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, till 1978 and then began his private practice in Gorakhpur.

“People laughed at me when I talked of proper case reporting, JE vaccination, second dose, aerial fogging, drinking water purification using sun rays. But ultimately everyone agreed that these are the best possible ways to save kids and I am happy that today local businessmen, students, politicians volunteer to do something for encephalitis eradication in the region,” says Singh.

Experts as well as villagers appreciate his efforts today. “Dr Singh is very passionate about his campaign and strongly believes in it. As an expert, I personally believe that this disease can be controlled to a large extent with such mass participation and collective efforts towards awareness about proper sanitation, basic hygiene and clean drinking water facilities,” says Dr KP Kushwaha, head of the pediatrics department and officiating principal at the BRD Medical College.

Manoj Kumar, a farmer in Holiya village and brother of an encephalitis affected girl Sanju says, “Initially, we didn’t like it when Dr Singh would talk about the disease but now we understand his point.” Today, Kumar as well as his neighbours have joined Singh’s campaign. “As time moved on, we realised that Dr Singh is fighting the battle for us. My neighbours decided to assist him in spreading the awareness and so did I.” says Kumar.
 
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