Dr. Ravindra Kolhe and Dr. Smita Kolhe :These Two Doctors Transformed One of Maharashtra's Poorest Regions Into a Farmer Suicide-Free Zone
The year was 1985 and Mr. Deorao Kolhe was working with Indian Railways. His son, Ravindra, was doing his MBBS from Nagpur Medical College. Everyone was waiting for the young man to finish his studies and return to his village Shegaon; Ravindra would be the first doctor in the family.
But little did the family know that instead of setting up a flourishing medical practice, their son was about to choose a completely different path in life.
Dr. Ravindra Kolhe was highly inspired by the books of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. By the time he finished his MBBS, he had decided to use his skills not for earning money but to help the most needy.
According to Dr. Jaju, one of Dr. Kolhe's professors, any doctor working in such a remote location needed to know three things. First, how to deliver a baby without the facility of sonography or blood transfusion. Second, how to diagnose pneumonia without an X-ray. And third, how to cure diarrhoea. Dr. Kolhe went to Mumbai to spend six months learning how to do all three, and then left for Bairagarh.
But soon, Dr. Kolhe realized that an MBBS degree was just not enough to tackle the numerous problems faced by these medically deprived villagers.
Dr. Kolhe left Bairagarh to complete his MD in 1987. He prepared his thesis on malnutrition in Melghat. His thesis attracted the attention of the world towards this subject – BBC radio covered Melghat, thus bringing it to everyone's notice.
Dr. Kolhe now wanted to return to Melghat again, but not alone.
He wanted a true companion. He started searching for the right match for himself but had four conditions.
First, the girl should be ready to walk for 40 km (the distance to be covered to reach Bairagarh).
Second, she should be ready for a 'Rs. 5 wedding' (court marriages at the time cost Rs. 5).
Third, she should be willing to manage financially with Rs. 400 per month (Dr. Kolhe charged Re. 1 per patient and had almost 400 patients every month).
And lastly, she should be ready to beg too, not for herself but if needed, for the welfare of others.
After being rejected by almost 100 prospective brides, he finally met Dr. Smita, a doctor with a flourishing practice in Nagpur. She accepted Dr. Kolhe's proposal, along with all his conditions.
Dr. Ravindra Kolhe and Dr. Smita Kolhe
And so, in 1989, Melghat got its second doctor.
But there was another challenge waiting for the couple in Bairagarh. People there had accepted Dr. Ravindra and begun to trust him after the first two years of his stay with them. But Dr. Smita, who was not docile but a fighter for women's empowerment, had to still be accepted by the villagers.
One incident helped in this respect. Dr. Smita was pregnant with her first child. Dr. Kolhe decided to do the delivery himself in the same simple way as he did for the villagers. But due to some complications during the delivery, the baby was infected by meningitis, pneumonia and septicemia. People started suggesting that the mother and baby should be moved to a better hospital in Akola. Dr. Kolhe left the decision to Dr. Smita but he had decided in his own mind that if Smita opted to leave the village at this point, he would never come back to show his face to the villagers again.
But Dr. Smita decided to stay back and have her baby treated just like other village children would be in the same condition. This earned her the respect of the villagers.
Dr. Ravindra and Dr. Smita in their early days in Bairagarh.
Once Dr. Ravindra and Dr. Smita had successfully worked on improving the health conditions in Bairagarh, the villagers started pestering them for help with cattle and plants too – thinking the couple had solutions to all their problems. As there was no other doctor in the village, Dr. Kolhe learnt about the anatomy of animals from a veterinary doctor friend, and studied agriculture at Punjab Rao Krushi Vidyapeeth, Akola.
He then developed a fungus-resistant variety of seed. But no one wanted to be the first to try it. So Dr. Kolhe and his wife started farming themselves.http://www.thebetterindia.com/ 48175/dr-ravindra-kolhe-smita- melghat-tribals-development/
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