Skip to content

Gandhi had a vision towards health promotion of the society


When we think about Gandhi, what are all the things which come to our mind? Father of the nation, fought for independence, non-violence movement, his adherence to truth, etc. we never realized the immense knowledge on health he had. Yes, he had a vision towards health promotion of the society. Though initially, he hated modern medicine, at the end he himself stressed the need for an evidence-based medicine

My life experiences on Gandhi:

My first experience is with our ENT department. In our college ENT department, there will be a quote told by Gandhi. He says, “It is not our patient who is dependent on us, but we who are dependent on him. By serving him, we are not obliging him; rather, by giving us the privilege to serve him, he is obliging us “. The need for a patient-centered healthcare facility is insisted on by him long ago. This quote is also inscribed in the OP suite at AIIMS, New Delhi.

My second experience was in Velammal Medical College, Madurai in a neurology quiz. There was a question called what are Gandhi neurons. I didn’t expect that question. I was like, there is a neuron named after him? They told those mirror neurons, appears to underlie feelings of empathy was named so by Indian born American neuroscientist Ramachandran on 2008

Keys to health:

Gandhi’s book on “keys to health” is one of his most famous writings. He believed in the 5 element concept of human body earth, water, vacancy, air, light.

  • Air: he insisted on breathing exercises, cleaning the nostrils and the importance of sleeping under the open sky.
  • Water: he insisted that everyone have the right to get pure water and proper drainage facility. It is the duty of government to provide that. He also believed in hydrotherapy
  • Earth: he believed that mud has the potential to cure scorpion sting, constipation, boils, etc.
  • Light: he had faith in yoga and sunbath.
  • Vacancy: it is also called Aakash or ether. Gandhi believed that brahmacharya led to a healthy life.

He insists that we should not abuse the body we have. He says” everything in the world can be used and abused and it applies to our body too. We abuse it when we use it for selfish purposes, in order to harm our body. It is put to right use if we exercise self-restraint and dedicate ourselves to the service of the whole world ”.He wrote about his experiences in his publication, ’Indian option’ under the title ‘guide to health’ and some articles on nature cure and five elements and their effects. Those articles were published in Aga Khan Palace in 1942.

His approach towards diet:

Nowadays people are very concerned about their diet. Now we have paleo diet, Atkins diet, etc. Gandhi during his period stressed the importance of dietary habits in the health of a person. He divides people into vegetarian, flesh and mixed and considered vegetarian diet the best. He insisted on the importance of adequate nutritional proportion in food. Regarding sweets, he supported jiggery, yes the only sweet which contains lots of iron content. He insisted to avoid fried food. Gandhi says,” Food should be taken as a matter of duty even as a medicine to sustain the body, never for the satisfaction of palate. There should be self-control as such habits of elders influence children to some extent”.

His approach towards smoking and drinking alcohol:

Gandhi states that ” Drugs and drink are the two arms of the devil with which he strikes his helpless slaves into stupefaction and intoxication ” .At that time people were drinking to get attention from British, social availability etc. police training schools made it compulsory to drink wine and eat meat. This makes the individual health and the community health in question. He starts that prohibition should start from not selling in shops, etc. he asks the women to actively participate against alcoholism.

He opposed smoking explaining the ill effects of it. The British tobacco company humiliated him by selling cigarettes named “Mahatma Gandhi” cigarettes. But he didn’t lose hope. He fought against tobacco throughout his life. He says,” He opposed smoking explaining the ill effects of it. The British tobacco company humiliated him by selling cigarettes named “Mahatma Gandhi” cigarettes. But he didn’t lose hope. He fought against tobacco throughout his life. He says, “if every smoker stopped the dirty habit of making his mouth a chimney to foul breath by making a present of his savings to some national cause, he would benefit both himself and the nation “.

Hygiene and health, the universal principles:

Gandhi made committees in Africa and Ahmadabad to conduct surveillance on open defecating areas and to promote sanitation there. Today around Tanjore we can see lots of villages with signboards promoting construction of latrines in the home and to avoid open-air defecation. Still, we cannot make people avoid open-air defecation and we cannot expect Gandhi to successfully establish that long ago. But we should never forget his ceaseless effort for health promotion.

Though he had a strong belief in God, he hated the untidy pilgrimage practices in India. He incorporated health education and hygiene in his 18 points constructive programmes

His initial disappointment over Western Medicine:

He suffered from digestive complaints while practicing law in South Africa. He took some medicine but they were ineffective. One of his friends gave him a book “Return to Nature” by Adolf. The book told about dietary reforms, mud application over the abdomen, use of wet compresses, etc. he got relief from these. He insisted that such drugless therapy is needed in countries like India where people don’t have access to the healthcare facility. But in this view, I bet to differ from Gandhi. We need to establish evidence-based medicine all over the country. In Tamil Nadu lots of quarks have arisen to provide the cure for jaundice, AIDS, etc. recently a person calling himself healer Baskar promoted the state to practice domiciliary delivery and as a result, a woman from Thiruppur lost her life. He also claims that sambhar vada is the cure for gallstones. We should never promote such evidence less medicine

His later positive attitude towards modern medicine:

In his 50s he suffered from hemorrhoids he first went seeking a solution from naturopathy. Then he went to Dr.Dalai and he underwent surgery and got cured of the illness. He even suggested others suffering from hemorrhoids to go for surgery. In January 1924, in Yerwada jail, he suffered from appendicitis and was operated by British surgeon Maddock. This life-saving surgery promoted his mind the need for modern medicine.

Gandhi against ancient medicine:

While opening an ayurvedic pharmacy in Chennai, he spoke that Ayurvedic physicians are just living by the glory of their past. The system is less evidence-based than the western system. He wanted the Ayurvedic practitioners to practice research and give evidence for modern medicine practitioners.

The next month he wrote to an ayurvedic physician,” I have faith in the Ayurvedic drugs, but very little in the diagnosis of physicians. I therefore never feel sure about a patient under an Ayurvedic physician if his diagnosis is not checked by a trustworthy practitioner under the Western system “.

My Gandhian views regarding independence for doctors:

As a third-year Medical student, I ‘ve been traveling to lots of colleges for intercollegiate conferences. I’ve seen lots of interesting research papers and case presentation from various Medical Colleges. But when I discuss with them and ask about their ambition most of them would like to join PG in central University in India like AIIMS JIPMER etc or to clear international exams to pursue their career abroad.

Lack of Professional security, unfair wages are some of the few reasons that implant the dream of USMLE(USA), GMC(UK), AMC(AUS) ,AIIMS and JIPMER in the mind of the young medical students and doctors in Tamil Nadu who don’t see or don’t want a future here.

I didn’t say such aims are wrong. But I question why a young medic with great rank which would allow him/her to choose their favorite PG course in their own state, where they tend to interact with their patients in their own language, to choose a college where they must learn a new language, culture, epidemiology difference, climatic variations etc.

And when all the competent Doctors our state for a place with better job security, job satisfaction, pay grade, respect then Tamil Nadu will be left with lack of manpower and will go through a medical crisis with lack of manpower.

Let’s see the PG stipend across the country

Sino. state Stipend for MD/MS 1st yr Stipend for DM/Mch 1st yr
1 Tamilnadu 27,100 32,800
2 Central government 86,335 89,634
3 Kerala 43k 47k
4 Maharashtra 53,360 48,413
5 Madhya Pradesh 45k 50k
6 Rajasthan 47k 54k
7 Uttar Pradesh 55,830 62,633
8 Bihar 50k 90,411
9 Goa 60k 71,238

Of course, after a lot of struggle, the stipend was increased to 40k 45k for PG and superspeciality respectively. Still, this is very low when compared around the country.

Across the world, Indian doctors are paid less. Across the country, TN doctors are being paid less. This is one of the reasons which implant the dream of studying abroad in young minds.

People may argue “Doctors should not work for money, they should do well to the society,” I ask WHY? Does anyone tell the society to provide all services to doctors free of cost for “betterment of the society”? OR ask the banks to give away money to all doctors for the same cause. No!

I would tell you an anecdote of myself. I finished my schooling in my hometown which is Mannargudi. I’ve chosen to study at Tanjore MC because it was the best College near my home. I didn’t think of studying in central University or in big cities. I really saw and I really wanted my future here. I didn’t have any calculation to join here; I got an emotional bonding which made me choose here.

I really wanted to join MD pediatry here in our college after I finish my MBBS. But when I came to know about the stipend paid across the country and the situation of TN, my dreams shattered. As a student from the middle class, I would rather sacrifice the comfort of living in my dream College over an increased stipend to support my family economical

So should I choose to join AIIMS or JIPMER? The answer is a big NO. We know the status of TN medical postgraduates in central Universities. Every month we are seeing at least one death news regarding PG death in AIIMS who is from Tamil Nadu. I had a senior friend who joined MD pathology in KEM Mumbai, whose bike was shattered just because it got a number plate TN. We have such a welcome from North Indian states. After all hard work, I don’t want to die in a central University.

The assault on doctors is not restricted to TN doctors alone. These past few years in India have witnessed growing instances of assault on doctors. Many newspaper columns have been devoted to the issue. Recently a doctor in Maharashtra’s Dhulia lost his eye after being assaulted by the relatives of a patient. Assault on doctors by angry patients and their kin is only a reflection of the issues troubling the healthcare system.

Let’s continue my story, where should I pursue my post graduation now? This pushes me to think that I should try writing USMLE. Let’s jump to my statement in the beginning of my essay.

Lack of Professional security, unfair wages are some of the few reasons that implant the dream of USMLE(USA), GMC(UK), AMC(AUS) ,AIIMS and JIPMER in the mind of the young medical students and doctors in Tamil Nadu who don’t see or don’t want a future here.

Do I see a future here? NO. Do I want a future here? NO. But this is my new ambition. This is what I should answer when a stranger asks me what you are going to do after finishing MBBS. I’ve been pushed like the majority of students in TN.

We must accept that corruption has found its way in the health sector too. However, I will be unfair in not adding that majority of the doctors remain committed to the ethics of the profession.

Let’s see another scenario; young Indian doctors are making the country proud through their work in developed countries such as Canada, the US, and many European countries. These doctors are working in a better medical ecosystem unlike doctors in India, who are forced to continuously fight unheeding authorities both for the rights of unaware citizens and overworked doctors.

Only 1.3 percent of the GDP is directed towards healthcare. As per the Universal Health Coverage NHP (National Health Policy) in 2017, four percent of GDP should be allocated for health. This data doesn’t reflect that health is a priority for the country.

India has only 10 lakh doctors working in government and private sectors. According to the World Health Organization, the doctor to patient ratio should be 1:1000. Which means India cannot afford the migration of young minds abroad.

We must find a way to prevent this migration. I didn’t mean preventing the true ambition of students who really know and want a career abroad. I want to stop the migration of students like me who are pushed out due to insecurity.

Recently the NMC Bill was tabled in Parliament and sent to the parliamentary standing committee. The panel has advocated “bridge courses” for indigenous and alternative medicine practitioners such as Ayurveda, and Homeopathy. If bridge courses could have been a real solution then I want a bridge course for local panchayat leaders to fix the shortage of judges in the country.

Thus we are facing a major crisis in TN of loosing young talented doctors to central Universities and abroad. We need to increase the stipend and salary of doctors here and we must provide a safe environment for the doctors. For this, we need a strong political will and planning to prevent such migration.

The basic concept is – rather than counting on what others can do for you, make your life count


It is better to die on your feet rather live on your knees. Gandhi is an iconic man the world has ever seen. The time when people believed that war was the only solution, there stood a man against violence and proved to the world that humanity, love, and non-violence can win too. He stood up to his lines “Be the change that you wish to see in the world. “ His life itself was a message. In this essay, I have dealt my best to explain my life experiences and my Gandhian principles and Gandhi’s contribution to medicine.


Gandhi M. K., “An Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth”, Navajivan Publisihng House, Ahmedabad, India, 1927.

Gandhi M. K., “Keys to Health”, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmadabad, India, 1948.

Gandhi M. K., “Social Service, Work and Reform” (Vol-1), Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmadabad, India, 1976.

Gandhi M. K., “Diet and Diet Reform”, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmadabad, India, 1949.

Keywords: Gandhi Health, Health promotion by Gandhi


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.