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Taking Stock
Designer Diseases
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahHappy tidings for us Indians! A group of experts after a year-long nationwide survey has concluded that India is going the way of the developed countries and by the year 2012 several disease groups would drive the growth in the number of outpatients. Infectious diseases will take a back seat and lifestyle ailments will be the major killers in the coming decades. They are cancer, heart ailments, circulatory and nervous disorders, ailments of the sense organs and asthma. These are categorised as lifestyle diseases and it is expected that at least 40 percent of outpatients spending would be on account of these diseases. The connection between changing socio-economics and disease pattern is clear. With increasing stress it is only natural that there should be an increase in stress related diseases or lifestyle diseases. The increase in such diseases has been noted especially in younger people who are in their 30s and 40s, which means the post independence generation.

Experts are entitled to squander public money any way which they like on wanted or unwanted projects benefiting none other than themselves and those on the power circuit, from top to the bottom. The fact remains that medical facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of even primitive and common diseases are grossly inadequate. This is the situation in cities and in urban areas. As for rural India, or the real India, even the concept of medical facilities is yet to reach there. The meager funds provided by government for medical facilities in rural areas are squandered away by local petty officials. 

The people are left at the mercy of quacks. Government doctors and health care officials abhor postings in rural areas. Other doctors and medical practitioners naturally love a better future in cities. They cannot be blamed much for that as their parents had to spend a huge amount of money on their education and training. Naturally, they must be expecting substantial returns. The more ambitious ones seek a brighter future overseas, which means a great loss and deprivation to the people whose money had been spent for years on their education and training. The net result for the masses in villages is to fend for themselves with regard to their medical needs. They have to depend upon the mercy of quacks. This is the picture today after more than half a century since Independence. How can such a society of sufferers understand or care to listen about lifestyle diseases while their lifestyle has hardly changed.

Today about 75-80 percent people are living in rural India, which means as many crores of them. About the time of Independence the percentage of village dwellers must have been much higher, maybe around 90 percent. Even then they suffered and died of their "lifestyle diseases." What was the lifestyle then, and the related diseases? Sustained exposure to the vagaries of nature in summer, winter and rain, half-fed or starving, in scanty clothes. A piece of loin cloth is described as the traditional Indian dress. What a shrewd way of diverting attention from their grueling poverty! Then they died of typhoid, malaria and liver ailments in addition to starvation. There was no count of it. 

Government machinery was activated only when a scourge like small pox or plague broke out. It was not for the love of the people dying by the hundreds or thousands, but because those epidemics were great equalisers. Once they broke out in an area they never discriminated between the Brahmins and the untouchables, between the raja and the praja. That is why they must be contained through preventive and administrative measures. As for other lifestyle diseases, then they could never be diagnosed nor treated. The people simply knew that a certain person had a severe pain in his chest or stomach, writhed and cried and then became still for ever. 

As for nervous ailments, it was only a short affair, or the influence of an evil spirit. So the person would be subjected to witchcraft, would suffer still more and finally the society would write him off as a nuisance. He would wander uncared for until he died an undignified death to the satisfaction of all. Cancer, believed to be such a horrible thing today, was a mere boil somewhere in the body, and it was finally treated by the village barber. As for asthma, it was and still it is, there and according to a general belief it is a life long companion. So no use treating it.

The lifestyle diseases mentioned in the said report must be relating to those who have every thing in life that material wealth and connections can provide. It is not relating to those who have neither of these, otherwise the lifestyle diseases would have included poverty and starvation which sometimes result in suicide and infanticide. Lifestyle would have included socio-economic maladies such as bride-burning and kisans setting fire to their crops and grain stocks.

However, those who have predicted an increase in lifestyle diseases forgot to suggest a way out or precautionary measures. It was not part of their "agenda." But one may be failing in his duty if one does not inform them and those who are really at risk that there is a complete set of rules, which if followed, can protect from all "style" diseases. Those rules prescribe that one should always keep ones body and clothes clean to avoid infections. One should also be clean within, that is in thought, to avoid psychological disorders; believe in the oneness of the Creator so that all affairs could be addressed to Him as this lightens ones heart; get up early in the morning, and in all humility admit ones faults before the Almighty and beg for His mercy; do it five times a day to get it imprinted on his soul. 

Having done this, take an honest stock of the material accumulations at the end of every year so that a small portion of the savings can be spared for those who are starving or dying a slow, untimely death due to the lack of means for the treatment of the diseases of their permanent lifestyle. At the same time, the discipline calls for a little sacrifice in the renunciation of the abundance of edibles so as to be able to feel the pain of hunger, resulting from a lifestyle enforced by poverty. After having done all that, if some money, sufficient for bearing the expenses of a long travel, is saved, take a trip to a centrally located place to see how the people coming from all parts of the world are observing those principles and have a common lifestyle. Many people will appreciate those principles, but when told that they are enunciated by Islam the unfortunate ones will prefer to die rather than accepting it, will prefer to die of AIDS and accept bills coming in from any "gate" for a probable cure of the incurable.
(PS: Look at the AIDS map of Africa. You will find that virulent scourge has left the Muslim populations almost alone in its devastating sweep through the continent. That says something about Islamic lifestyle.) 
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