The doctor who adopted village life to serve the community

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 16th February 2014
Dr. Nathmal Dugar is a surgeon by profession. He retired as a PMO from Nagour District in Rajasthan in 2003. When he retired he received many lucrative offers from private hospitals to join as Chief Surgeon. However, Dr. Nathmal had a different thinking. He had seen the plight of villagers from his own village. He belonged to Sherera village which is located 46km from Bikaner. There are about 12 villages located in a cluster (12 Bas or 12 villages) and Sherera is one of these. There is no doctor in the vicinity up to 46km. Villagers have to rush to Bikaner, and at times there are no facilities for carrying patients.

Dr. Nathmal chose to serve his own village and set up a small clinic in Sherera. Sherera together with nearby villages has a population of about 6000. On an average, 5-6 patients visit Dr. Nathmal daily. Dr. Nathmal doesn't charge for professional services, however, he has to charge for the medicines (as there is no medical store nearby; he also has to keep a large number of medicines with himself). He shares the secrets of how to lead a healthy life with the villagers and is often invited by the village school, Sarpanch and other village institutions to guide them and give a lecture. He motivates and inspires them towards healthy lifestyle. He is a role model and hero for the villagers, who come to him for all types of issues. It's almost 11 years now. The villagers are very happy and they don't have to have worries about their health issues. The problems relating to health related mishaps have reduced to almost zero. The villagers respect Dr. Nathmal and feel grateful towards him. For Dr. Nathmal, it is not a sacrifice, but a love for his own villagers.
The doctor who adopted village life to serve the community,surgeon
I now recall my old notes relating to the village. In 1998, I was the honorary district coordinator of UNICEF's project on malnutrition. We visited many villages near Sherera. We were appalled at the problems. Bikaner Vikas Samiti, which was the nodal agency of the project and the College of Home Science, Rajasthan Agricultural University Bikaner, which was assisting the implementation of the project were both unable to find solutions. We used to request doctors to visit the villages and it used to be a very difficult task for them. We used to meet CMHO and other officials so that they could nominate some doctors to visit the villages. I was fortunate to have friendship with Dr. Vijay Bothra ji, the renowned philanthropic doctor from Bikaner, who used to agree to visit these villages and spare his time for this purpose most of the time. When the team used to reach the villages, they used to get the villagers swarming around them and asking for regular medical help. They complained that, "There is no doctor here; the government doctor rarely visits. Why don't you start a regular medical centre?" The solution was not in the horizon. We couldn't persuade any doctor to start regular visits to the village. The village was having the highest level of malnutrition and the highest rate of problems due to medical reasons.

Our efforts did give us many results, but today, these villages are problem-free. They aren't having any major issues whether on account of malnutrition or other health related reasons. It's not our efforts, but the initiative by a doctor to settle down in the village, which has solved the problem. It is now more than a decade of this arduous journey. Village life has many disadvantages and hardships. Still, Dr. Nathmal is happy with his decision and is planning to upgrade his clinic for the benefit of the villagers. I wish that more doctors should start adopting villages and our major health related problems will vanish.
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