I am delighted to be amidst you at the 17th Convocation of the National Board of Examinations. I would like to thank Shri Ghulam Nabi Azadji, Hon. Minister of Health and Family Welfare for giving me this opportunity to be here today. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to be with the young people. I find it very energizing, very rejuvenating and very integrating. I must share my secret. I always look forward to receive an invitation where young people, especially young students, have gathered. I look forward to an invitation from small schools in any interior part or inaccessible part of our country. I like to go to institutions which are giving education to the disabled children. I like to go to the universities. I feel especially honoured and privileged to be here today. I congratulate all the awardees on this occasion.
Our former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi had envisioned the establishment of the National Board of Examinations for promoting and ensuring core competence in post-graduate medical studies. The Board has, over the years, achieved excellence in post-graduate medical education. All the members and staff of this Board deserve special appreciation for setting high standards in training, examination, and evaluation mechanisms by which such bright candidates have been certified to render specialised treatment to the people of our country.
As good health is essential for human welfare and sustained economic and social development, the world leaders had adopted the Millennium Declaration at the advent of 21st century to combat poverty, hunger and disease on a global scale. The eighth Millennium Development Goal makes it incumbent upon all signatories to collectively strive for reducing by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate, by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. India has diligently strived towards attaining these targets. Over the years, we have established an extensive public health infrastructure comprising of District Hospitals, Community Health Centres, Primary Health Centres and Sub-Centres spread across rural and semi urban areas. Our sustained efforts have resulted in improving the life-span, eradicating several diseases, increasing health awareness and sense of hygiene among our people. But we still have a long way to go before we can call ourselves a truly healthy nation.
As per the National Health Profile 2010, amongst communicable diseases more than 2.4 crore cases of acute respiratory infection and more than one crore cases of acute diarrhoeal diseases were reported across our country. During the same period, more than 11 lakh cases of pulmonary tuberculosis were also reported. While on one hand, malnutrition accounts for a significant number of deaths each year, we are also witnessing an increase in lifestyle related diseases. The prevalent rate of hypertension among the adult population in both rural and urban areas stands at 159.46 per thousand. It is estimated that the country, by the year 2015 will have more than 4.6 crore cases of diabetes and six crore cases of coronary heart disease.
It is a stark reality that even in this globalized era, access to medical facilities is determined by gender, wealth and rural-urban considerations. We have constantly endeavoured to achieve universal health coverage. For effective coverage we urgently require high quality medical professionals willing to serve in our villages and inaccessible parts of the country.
In a developing nation like ours, in addition to their duty of working in the best interests of patients, without any discrimination on the basis of social, political or economic standing, doctors have an obligation towards the society. This onerous responsibility encompasses disseminating advice on public health issues and providing healthcare to the poor and marginalized sections. All of you must fulfil your pledge of consecrating your life to the service of humanity and be at the vanguard of our campaign for providing access to healthcare to one and all.
We have 12760 Government hospitals and 8,56,065 registered allopathic medical practitioners out of which approximately six lakh are active practitioners which is insufficient for our vast population of about 120 crore. A socially, geographically and demographically diverse country like ours requires innovative solutions to address its myriad problems. The Diplomate National Programme of the National Board of Examinations has played a crucial role in bridging this gap.
I am deeply anguished by the fact that female foeticide and neglect of girl child are still prevalent in our society leading to an adverse sex ratio. Our Constitution framers, with their foresight and wisdom, envisaged a just, fair and equal social order and enshrined the cherished ideals of justice, liberty and equality as fundamental rights. Our Parliament has zealously safeguarded the right to equality and endeavoured to eradicate gender based discrimination. Spearheading the crusade of protecting the girl child, it has also enacted the Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to prohibit sex selection. However, mere legislation cannot be a solution for all ills. Unless the social attitudes change, the life of girl child will continue to be endangered. All of us, as responsible citizens, have to generate awareness and usher in social transformation. In some urban areas, in small towns, you find so many clinics which have mushroomed, which surreptitiously carry out Amino Centesis Test. They put signboards outside saying, ‘pay Rs. 5000 now and save Rs. 5,00,000 later.’ The most undesirable practice of dowry makes a girl child not very welcome in her family. So, as medical practitioners who are the bright future of India’s tomorrow-you have secured such high level of expertise and specialization in medical sciences- all of you present here have a very special duty to perform.
To address the challenge of providing health services to over 16 per cent of world population, our Parliament has established a Forum on Population and Public Health which provides our Members a platform to share information and knowledge, interact with the Minister concerned, experts and key officials from the nodal Ministry and provide valuable inputs in this arena. We also have 21 Members of Parliament in the Fifteenth Lok Sabha who come from the fraternity of medical professionals and serve the society and community they represent. They very eloquently project the concerns of their electorate in the House and carefully scrutinize the programmes and policies of the Government especially on health related issues.
As we move ahead into the Twelfth Five-Year Plan in April, 2012, we should look forward to setting new benchmarks in health indicators such as reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates, improving women and child health and addressing the issue of child sex ratio in the 0-6 year age group to ensure adequate care and nurturing for the girl child. I am confident that this batch of doctors graduating today will join me in resolving to condemn and eradicate the reprehensible practice of sex selection.
I am delighted to note that at this Convocation 1,948 women candidates are being conferred the prestigious DNB. The medical professionals, especially women, are role models for our society and must play a proactive role in generating awareness and changing mindsets. You have to be agents of change and champion the cause of the girl child. The faith and confidence reposed by the community in medical profession is indeed inspirational and I am sure that all of you shall live up to the high expectations. This is how I feel and I think everybody feels that next to God is a doctor. We have so much faith in our doctors. I am sure you will live up to it.
I commend the National Board of Examinations for successfully completing 30 years of its existence as a torch bearer of excellence and standards in the field of post graduate medical education and assessment in the country.
I once again congratulate the awardees and wish them all the best in their noble profession. I must congratulate all the members of the faculty and Dr. Reddy. Thank you so much, Hon. Health Minister, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azadji, for giving me this opportunity and honour.