White Knight of the underprivileged
Sundarbans, a natural region comprising southern Bangladesh and a small part in the Indian state of West Bengal is famous for its unique mangrove forests. It is the world’s largest active delta region measuring about 40,000 sq. km.
Every common man is surely aware of the beauty of this place and the royal Bengal tigers (of course). We all notice the beauty of such places but many of us have ignored the lives of the people here. In such a remote area, getting access to basic education and medical facilities is very tough. The efforts made by the government to provide the poor people of such remote areas is either not enough or too expensive. This is where a Good Samaritan like Dr Arunodhay Mondal comes in.
Dr Arunodhay Mondal completed his primary education from Sundarbans and then went on to study medicine and passed with a degree of M.B.B.S from National Medical College in Kolkata. He started his practice at a clinic in Birati (a place in Kolkata). Initially, he worked with many NGOs and trusts like Missionaries of charity, Ramkrishna Mission and more; providing medical assistance during natural calamities.
During the interview, he said, “I have started this [Sujan] on humanity grounds. I believe that each and everyone has a responsibility towards the society.
“On some personal level, I feel people nowadays are more about ‘I’ ‘me’ ‘my’. I will earn money, buy good clothes and spend it on myself. Most often people forget that they have a social responsibility.”
In early 2000 Dr Mondal started a free medical service center at his own residence at Chandanpur. He later purchased a plot of land at Roypur and set up ‘Sujan’ on 27th August 2006 offering best medical assistance to the local people.
They provide medicine for free and run tests such as Pathological tests, X-Ray, C.T. Scan, USG at a subsidized rate (Rs. 30 max). All common diseases are treated at the outdoors on Saturdays and Sundays. They also made Pediatrics treatment available with special care and concerned guardians properly briefed regarding health-norms to be provided for their wards. About 900 patients are attended per month. On some cases, specialist doctors are arranged.
He also provides free health services to the poor fishermen of Mandarmani and also gives similar services to the children of the orphanage called ‘Antodoy’.
Concerned with the degrading quality of education in certain areas in West Bengal, he started an Educational Assistance Center (started in 2012) called ‘Kolahal’, which aims at developing a basic understanding of Math, English, Literature and General Knowledge up to primarily level.
When I asked him about the government negligence on such sectors he said, “The efforts made by the government is not enough. The villages in Sundarbans lack electricity, proper water and roads to travel. My team (five to six doctors) and I have to cross 2 rivers to get to the locality. It is not an easy journey. The reason why the physicians and the doctors provided by the government are so reluctant to work in such remote areas.”
“Initially while setting up the medical services many people at the locality thought this was commercial and thus were not keen on cooperating with me and my team. Many even tried to stop us. But I did not give up. I quietly continued my work and eventually gained their trust.” he said.
In the beginning, almost all of his savings were used to kick-start this project. Many fellow doctors and well-wishers also joined hands with him. “We take the physicians’ sample from individual doctors and we have also applied to pharmaceutical industry to provide enough samples. Some medicines are provided by the CDMU (Community Development Medicinal Unit) at a subsidized rate” he added.
“We don’t do these for awards,” he said when asked about his awards. “We do this on humanity grounds. Yes, it feels good when you realize that someone’s life, who is unable to even buy one time’s meal, was saved with your diagnosis.”
Many poor people in our country benefit because of programs like this. It is because of people like Dr Mondal that education and medical services are possible for those who can barely afford one time meal. Each of us can contribute towards a social development by helping a child with their education or an underprivileged family with medical assistance. “A doctor with humanity has to do a lot for the poor and downtrodden people, otherwise social development is impossible” he added in the end. The society itself will be unsuccessful in achieving its own goals unless the community of people living below the poverty line is uplifted and brought to the mainstream of the society.