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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 149  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 1-3


1 Indian Council of Medical Research
2 Hon'ble Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India

Date of Web Publication22-Apr-2019

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-5916.251653

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How to cite this article:
Kant R, Bhargava B, Nadda J P. Editorial. Indian J Med Res 2019;149, Suppl S1:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Kant R, Bhargava B, Nadda J P. Editorial. Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Nov 25];149, Suppl S1:1-3. Available from:

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. He spent his entire life looking after the poor and the downtrodden, trying to solve the problems of society and steer the freedom movement through the path of truth and non-violence. His personality and charisma touched and influenced millions, not just in India but across the world. Gandhiji cared deeply about all the issues he came across, and involved himself in finding solutions wherever he perceived a problem. History will remember him as a leader with a magnetic personality who rose above caste, creed and religion and was committed to ending human sufferings. He was an ordinary man with extraordinary qualities. Even though he was born and brought up in a well-to-do family, and went overseas to pursue an education, he lived and practised the life of a common man. Once, when somebody asked him, Gandhiji, why do you travel by third class, he simply said, because there is no fourth class in trains. That sums up the simplicity of this great man.

Leader, motivator, researcher, crusader, visionary, apostle of peace – Gandhiji was an institution in himself. He was also an environmentalist, a seasoned economist and an experimental scientist. His teachings and weapons of truth and non-violence led India to freedom. He advocated and emphasized the importance of health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, which are crucial and relevant even today. He said, “It is health that is real wealth, not pieces of gold and silver.” He believed that if we keep our surroundings clean, maintain hygiene, and lead a balanced life with appropriate diet, we can easily avoid many diseases. He experimented with his own diet and food and advocated for the importance of physical activity. He also practised vegetarianism and was against tobacco and alcohol. His solutions to problems were always simple and practical.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” This holds true for Gandhiji because he preached what he practised and for him, change started with himself. He once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” His life was an open book. “My life is my message,” he would say. Gandhiji's life constantly evolved, based on learning from his own experiences and experiments. The beliefs he held are relevant even today as we battle stress and aspire for peace of mind.

150 years is a long period in the history of mankind. The world we live in has changed immensely, be it politically or in the fields of environment, science and medical science. We have witnessed the Green Revolution, the White Revolution, and a revolution in Information Technology and Communication. New drugs, devices, diagnostics, vaccines, genes and genomics-related information have redefined treatment for various diseases.

Gandhiji lived in an era of tremendous political turmoil, extreme poverty, poor living conditions and during a time when untouchability was rampant. That's not all. This was also a time when various communicable diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, plague, as well as malnutrition, occurred regularly, with limited resources and inadequate facilities for treatment. Whatever Gandhiji practised and advised was designed to address the problems of that time. It is quite possible that some of the solutions Gandhiji had back then may surprise today's generation, but his philosophy towards life and healthy living continues to remain relevant. His belief in the Almighty and the influence of Rama-Nama, along with his experiments with Nature Cure for treating various diseases, would probably look unacceptable today, but during that time, this may well have been quite effective when modern tools and technologies were not available to people. With the advances made in medical science, we have succeeded in winning the war against diseases like small pox, plague, polio, neonatal tetanus and guinea-worm, but our fight against emerging health issues such as lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases could be handled by adopting the Gandhian philosophy.

Understanding Gandhi means following the Gandhian philosophy that can bring change in one's own life as well as within the society. On Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, re-dedicating ourselves to his values and walking the same path he chose to tread, will be the true tribute to the man who is known as the father of the nation.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was set up in 1911 as the Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA). In its journey, that has spanned more than a century, this institution has made immense contributions towards various disease control programmes, and has also tried to follow the path as shown by the Mahatma by touching the lives of the underprivileged. ICMR's first institute was set up in 1918 as the Nutrition Research Laboratory, Kunoor (now known as the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad). Incidentally, this institute is also marking its centenary year. Robert McCarrison, the first Director of the institute, used to have long conversations with Gandhiji whenever there was an issue related to diet and dietetics and both of them would have long discussions on the use of milk, as Gandhiji had taken a vow not to drink milk. That relationship resulted in creating a strong foothold in the area of nutrition and accelerating research. Gandhiji used to emphasize the importance of eliminating mosquito breeding sites and regular monitoring of water containers as measures to prevent mosquitoes and malaria. He considered these simple methods more effective than the distribution of quinine tablets, as these measures tackled the problem of mosquito breeding at the source. Following the same principles, ICMR's National Institute of Malaria Research demonstrated the successful control of malaria through bioenvironmental approaches in various parts of the country by adopting holistic approaches that were advocated by Gandhiji. Similarly, ICMR has been following the Gandhian philosophy of caring for the neglected and the marginalized by working on the elimination of diseases linked with stigma and untouchability. ICMR carried out extensive research on leprosy and tuberculosis, and helped in bringing the disease incidence down as well as removing the fear around these diseases by providing better treatment options. Now both these diseases have been targeted for elimination. ICMR has also focused its research on areas such as environment, lifestyle diseases and social behavioral issues, causes Gandhiji was passionate about.

In this special volume, we have focused on three major sections incorporating all of Gandhiji's principles and values. Section 1 is focused on the medical legacy of Gandhi (as he himself dedicated his life to caring for the ailing), his own health file (health issues he faced and tackled), his experiments with his own health, based on articles published and health records available at the National Gandhi Museum, Delhi, as well as articles from Gandhians who worked at the grassroots and dedicated their lives to fulfil the dreams of the Mahatma.

Section 2 focuses on ICMR's contributions to the areas that are relevant to Gandhian principles and his way of living. This section also looks at practices such as hygiene and sanitation (relevant to diseases like cholera, malaria, TB and leprosy), the importance of living a disciplined life and the role of physical fitness with meditation (relevant to lifestyle diseases, mental health and the youth) and the importance of balanced diet (relevant to nutrition).

Section 3 comprises of the prize-winning essay that won the first prize in the competition on 'Gandhi&Health@150' organized by ICMR, and the best pictures that were selected in the photo competition organized by ICMR-RMRC, Bhubaneswar.

On January 30, 1948, when Gandhiji was assassinated, Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India said, “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” That was a tumultuous time in the history of independent India. The Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR) had published Mahatma Gandhi's obituary in its April 1948 issue. That has been reproduced in this volume.

Though there may be some unavoidable overlaps between the chapters, they are there to maintain the flow and consistency of the individual articles.

Gandhiji was not a professional doctor but a lawyer by training. But his passion, dedication and commitment to alleviate the suffering of the poor, downtrodden and marginalized was phenomenal. He redefined human values and devised a system that was novel, self-sustaining, affordable and rewarding. India needs more of Gandhiji right now, especially since the country is transitioning to an affordable health care ecosystem with a focus on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that will benefit everyone in the country. Recent government initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), Poshan Abhiyan (National Nutrition Mission), and Mission Indradhanush (Immunization Programme) are going to be game changers for India. Here, the Gandhian philosophy, based on global, affordable, need-driven health innovation (GANDHI) can show us a clear path to move ahead and achieve the results we are aiming for.

This is a humble effort to commemorate one of the greatest leaders that ever lived, on his 150th birth anniversary. As Einstein rightly said, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

The Indian Council of Medical Research salutes the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, on this special occasion. He will continue to live in millions of hearts in the years ahead through his contributions to society, in India and across the world.

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