‘The Mitanin Programme has Certainly not been Implemented in the Spirit in Which it Was Formulated’
-President, PUCL, Chhattisgarh, Dr Binayak Sen   

President, People’s Union for Civil Liberties,
Chhattisgarh and founder-member, Rupantar,
Dr Binayak Sen
In which areas and capacities have you been associated with the government of India’s programmes and policies? Are you still involved in some programmes?

I have at no stage been involved in the ‘government of India’s plans and policies’ except for my recent participation in the Planning Commission’s steering committee on health for the 12th five-year plan. This is a recommendatory body with 40 members, which has so far had one meeting, which I was privileged to attend.

You were one of the architects of Chhattisgarh government’s public health programme. What was the programme about, what was your contribution in it and has it been implemented in the spirit it was drawn up?

I was NOT ‘one of the architects of Chhattisgarh government’s public health programme.’ I stress this because any architect should take some responsibility for the final product, and I would certainly not like to be identified with whatever passes in the name of public health in Chhattisgarh today. However, I (along with other NGO-based colleagues in their independent capacities) was part of a high-power committee set up by the Ajit Jogi administration to conceptualise and give effect to the Mitanin (‘friend’ in Chhattisgarhi), who subsequently became the ‘Asha’ in the NRHM. In our conceptualisation, the Mitanin would be a woman from the community, chosen by the community. She would be expected to perform certain ‘first-contact care’ functions, for which she would be trained by the health-care system. Her main function however, would be, in the interface between the community and the health-care system, to articulate people’s agency, initiate and carry forward community-based monitoring, and ultimately, work towards the realisation of the right to health care.The Mitanin programme has certainly not been implemented in the spirit in which it was formulated.

Numerous concomitant changes would need to be realised before such a programme could be successfully implemented. Nevertheless, even the struggle to implement such a programme would take us further along towards the realisation of the goal of Universal Right to Health Care.

What is Rupantar’s nature and scope of work?

Rupantar, which means ‘transformation’, is a registered public charitable trust. Hitherto, most of its work has been in the state of Chhattisgarh, among communities of indigenous people displaced from their original habitations by ‘development’ activities, such as the building of dams on the headwaters of the Mahanadi. Our main areas of work have been rural community-based primary health care, primary education, community-based food security systems, and seed-biodiversity preservation.

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